THEATRE REVIEW: Slapstick farce from a bygone age makes its comeback
St Nicolas Players set themselves a monumental challenge and that was to follow the success of their two 2017 shows, One Man, Two Guvnors and The Vicar of Dibley.
So for inspiration, the Spalding-based theatre group turned to London-born author, journalist and playwright Lynn Britney’s Old Actors Never Die...They Simply Lose The Plot.
All the drama takes place at The Mount Home for Retired Theatricals, the equivalent of a stud for retired horses, except the occupants in this case werea motley crew of retired actors.
The confined space of a country house hotel where, according to Jules Sullivan (Mandie Colllier), former stars of stage and screen are: “Waited on hand and foot, no meals to prepare, beds made, Heaven”.
The virtues of The Mount were even more enthusiastically sold by manageress Ann Thompson (Arline Evenden), while existing residents Jules, Phyl (Bev Moore) and Becca Sullivan (Natalie Mills) reminisce about old times with serial film extra and “confirmed bachelor” Walter Neville (Jed Laxton).
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the widowed Danny Stiller (Nigel L. Hancocks) who, it later turns out, has a sexual appetite as hard to control as his tears over his departed wife.
Despite this, all seems well at The Mount which is partly due to the determined efforts of matron of all trades Marcia Jones (Linda Smith).
But the mood turns dark when another guest arrives in the person of slippery, shifty and suspect Edmund Sullivan (Michael Barron) whose attempts at impersonating Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther films ends up more like Inspector Gadget.
It turns out that Edmund’s constant craving for younger women has turned him into a wanted man, not only by his three ex-wives who want to fleece him for every penny in revenge, but also the more deadly threat of the Russian Mafia.
Surprisingly, when mob boss Mike Molinsky (Nick Fletcher) and his “heavy” Dmitri (Steph Genovese) enter the drama, the light comedy stays on the bright side, even when Molinsky orders the kidnapping of Marcia in an effort to “smoke out” the hunted Edmund.
Waited on hand and foot, no meals to prepare, beds made, Heaven
In Marcia’s absence, the fearsome but incompetent Russian maid Irina (Matilda Hoyles-Simpson) is left to look after the residents’ appetites, with disastrous results.
Meanwhile, making a desperate attempt to shake off the bounty on his head is Edmund who keeps himself away from signing an alimony in order for his three ex-wives to cash in by desperately searching for Molinsky’s missing mum before the mobsters finally catch up with him. While this cat-and-mouse game continues, Irina satisfies Danny’s bedroom passions by calling on his starring role as “The Master of the Universe” until Molinsky finally catches up with Edmund.
Once Irina proposes her undying loyalty to Danny, Molinsky’s appetite for decapitating Edmund weakens, especially when it emerges that his mum his eloped to Las Vegas with a younger “toy boy” full of Latino heat.
At this stage it is worth pointing out that the Spalding Guardian played (pardon the pun!) a crucial role in the success of this St Nicolas Players’ farce by putting the word out for a “strong, confident” actress, with a good Russian accent, who could portray “a very dominant and dynamic character”.
Both Molinsky and Irina carried off their Russian accents, and combative demeanours, with convincing success, while Steph’s heavy Dmitri did all his talking by his actions, in the best tradition of James Bond villains like Red Grant (From Russia With Love), Oddjob (Goldfinger) and Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker).
The other achievement for which St Nicolas Players should be applauded is to make just one stage set the centre for an unfolding comedy, with enough Tony Hancock-like mirth to serve up a traditional English farce.
Review by Winston Brown