REVIEW: Dramatic scenes and lots of laughter in three short plays

Three Class Acts: Cruise Missile, Last Post and Last Panto in Little Grimley by Ewhurst Players, Ewhurst Village Hall, Friday, May 16

It’s a warm atmosphere that greets theatregoers at Ewhurst Village Hall, with audience members enjoying some nibbles before the first performance of the evening.

2014 is Ewhurst Players’ 40th year and the society is celebrating by offering three one-act plays, with food served during the intervals.

The first play, Cruise Missile, is a 20-minute comedy set on a cruise ship. The action revolves around Janet (Victoria Helstrip), a mild mannered woman who desires nothing more than a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, a nosy fellow traveller named Goldie (Jane Biggins), latches onto her and seems determined to spoil the peace by getting Janet to try all manner of high energy activities. Jane Biggins is particularly funny as the irritating Goldie, a woman whose enthusiasm makes it difficult for Janet to tell her to get lost. Victoria Helstrip is also convincing as Janet, finding humour in her character’s inability to be firm with Goldie, while letting Janet’s repressed annoyance break out in other ways.

Next up is Last Post, which begins as a simple melodrama but morphs into something cleverer. The story involves a widow called Felicity Grant-Poole (Tricia Cooper) who meets a woman called Mary O’Riley (Jay Garland), who claims to be a former lover of Felicity’s late husband. The shift in tone from the first play is a bit jarring, but the twist is satisfying and both actresses throw themselves into their demanding roles.

The final play is Last Panto in Little Grimley. It’s another comedy, looking at an unsuccessful am-dram group’s attempts to spice up their annual pantomime. Mike Fanya is great as Gordon, the pretentious panto director who lacks talent, but can’t stop criticising everyone else. Nicki Payne gets a lot of laughs as Joyce, a character whose inability to sing consistently winds Gordon through the roof.

Pat Mortimore plays Gordon’s intelligent wife, Margaret, provoking laughs through her character’s cynical outlook and scandalised reaction to her husband’s odd plans for their production.

She also gets major laughs when Gordon’s computer misprints his script so that the letters T and S are switched with each other, turning the innocent words “this is” into something rather rude.

Margaret is wryly funny but the behind-the-scenes man Bernard, played by Tony Money, is given the script’s most sardonic observations. His complete lack of enthusiasm is highly amusing, as he’s persuaded to perform as the least convincing rear end of a horse in panto history.

Overall, it’s a delightful evening and a wonderful showcase for the talented performers in this popular amateur society.