A Trilogy of Comedies

Nov 16 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Celebratory

Saughtonhall URC: Wed 15 – Sat 18 Nov 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Trilogy of Comedies, presented by Saughtonhall Drama Group at Saughtonhall United Reformed Church to mark their 75th anniversary, provide geniality, stagecraft and much laughter.

The three plays are well chosen for contrasting moods and settings. First up is The Interview by Jane France. Radio presenter Gerry (Alan Moonie), who is convinced that his interview with elderly Agnes (Morag Simpson) – apparently one of the last speakers of Cumbrian dialect – will bring him glory. Agnes may have other motives, however.

John Webster and Scott Kerr in Doggies. Pic: Jack Simpson.

The Interview is a beautifully structured 25 minutes which gets the evening off to a cracking start. John Webster’s direction is paced just right, and the performers extract maximum humour from the situation with some exquisite timing; Simpson’s comic nous in particular is a joy to behold.

It is rare to see performers who can provide genuine and sustained laughter, and ride it without ever succumbing to the temptation to talk across it.

The second piece, Doggies by Jean McConnell, has more of the air of an extended sketch, but the twenty minutes simply flies by. Simpson directs this time, and the pacing is spot on.

real comic talent

Scott Kerr, as Tristan the finicky Pekinese owner, and John Webster, as the more rough-and-ready possessor of a mixed-breed dog, once again display real comic talent. Webster in particular is excellent at delaying a line for maximum impact. There is some proper stagecraft on show here, with the dogs brought to life by some understated but highly effective puppetry.

Lynn Holmes, Murray Petrie and Ishbel Shand in After I’m Gone. Pic: Jack Simpson.

While none of the pieces on display have any real surprises in store for the audience, the journeys towards the endings are always full of fun. The longer play in the second half – After I’m Gone by Frank Vickery – perhaps suffers a little more from its predictability.

At 45 minutes, it is neither a sketch nor a full-length play, and its division into three short scenes does not help the flow. However, it is another cheerfully portrayed and comically satisfying piece.

Ishbel Shand’s domineering mother, reluctant to let her innocent daughter marry, is pitched just right. Lynn Holmes gives daughter Matti an openhearted charm, while Judith Petrie is convincingly grounded as neighbour Edith. Murray Petrie turns in a fine comic performance as the ageing, hard-of-hearing ‘Dad’.

cleverly paced

The Welsh setting that is an integral part of the play is somewhat inconsistently evoked, but the direction of the piece (by Simpson again) is well considered and cleverly paced. There are undoubtedly some intriguing things about the play – not least the way that the dreaded undertaker who has set his cap at Matti is a definite presence despite remaining offstage.

Good use is made of Keith Wilson’s set, with Keith and Liz Wilson providing very fine technical design and operation.

Ishbel Shand, Murray Petrie, Lynn Holmes, and Judith Petrie in After I’m Gone. Pic: Jack Simpson.

Throughout, there is a confidence and comic flair on display. There is the odd insecure moment on stage, but overall the evening hangs together very well.

Any drama group that makes it to 75 years deserves hearty congratulations, and one that is so embedded in its community even more so – the friendly welcome, and half-time tea (or coffee) and raffle are present and correct as always. This is an evening of real warmth and considerable hilarity.

Running time: One hour and 55 minutes (including one interval)
Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, 85-87 Saughtonhall Drive, EH12 5TR
Wednesday 15 – Saturday 18 November 2023
Evenings at 7.30 pm
Tickets: Book here.

Details: Saughtonhall Drama Group Facebook page: @saughtonhalldramagroup
Website: www.saughtonhall.com/dramagroup.html


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