With the exception of a delightful interview with Claire Martin (page 55), the past couple of weeks have been pretty tough.
I had to catch up with a huge post-holiday workload, so it was great to receive an email from Andy Page, who invited me to see a play he’s directing for the Manor Theatre Group.
It was good timing too, as the preview show I went to was the day before my birthday, which let me start the usual celebrations early.
Pull The Other One, Manor Theatre Group, North Heath Hall, Horsham, September 12 and 13
If you like a fast-paced farce with plenty of saucy humour, then Manor Theatre Group’s version of Pull The Other One should be right up your street.
The plot involves a series of ridiculous events that start when Muriel Perkins, the wife of a simple man named Albert, reads a letter addressed to her husband from someone called Hilary Armitage. Hilary, it’s revealed early on, is a male friend of Albert’s. He’s performing a drag act and wrote the letter as a kind of private joke. However, the seeds of distrust have been sown and when Albert meets Virginia Brown, a young artist who wants him to pose nude for her, things spiral out of control. Boadicea Heptinstall, Albert’s mother-in-law, knows something’s going on and makes it her business to catch Albert in the act.
Boadicea is arguably the show’s best character, played with a comically menacing manner by Laine Watson, who keeps Boadicea in a permanent state of disapproval. This rubs off on Muriel, which actress Charlotte McCulloch conveys well.
In contrast, Virginia Brown is played with a mischievous energy by Kathryn Felton. It’s easy for the audience to side with her, mainly because of Kathryn’s acting, but also because she’s a cool young person invading Albert’s dreary existence. Hilary (Julian Tiley having a whale of a time) does this as well, joyfully embracing his absurd career choices.
Wilf Turner (Dennis Manning on good form) gets some laughs by thoughtfully munching on sausage rolls, while the cheeky Reverend Nookey (Andrew Bates) is responsible for one of the play’s funniest moments.
However, the best thing about this show is how British it all is, from the sense of humour to the play’s main character. Despite living in the 1980s, Albert is old-fashioned, dressing (mostly) in dull clothes and becoming timid when confronted with potential excitement. Surprisingly, his mildly stereotypical personality isn’t irritating. Albert’s actually rather sweet with Craig Bunce making the audience sympathise with him. He seems to represent a conservative but likeable idea of Britishness, which makes his interactions with the more colourful, liberal characters all the more amusing.