Cocoa and Cuddles

Apr 18 2018 | By More

★★☆☆☆ Curiously disconnected

Saughtonhall Church: Tue 17 – Sat 21 April 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

Saughtonhall Drama Club opens its 70th anniversary year with Cocoa and Cuddles by Jane Lockyer Willis, a strange and worryingly disconnected piece of theatre.

The main problem with Willis’s script is that it never makes up its mind whether it is fish or fowl – or even good red herring. As a consequence it meanders from start to finish, producing characters who are hardly used and taking others for walks that seem quite unsuited to their nature.

Judith Petrie and Scott Kerr. Pic: SDG

It is billed as a dark comedy – and there is certainly a comic darkness to the plot. Frank’s mother Edith has died and is laid out to rest in the spare room of the home he shares with his second wife, Lorna. However Frank’s squeamishness around dead bodies – stemming from an unfortunate incident with a hedgehog and a lawnmower – means he just can’t get on with the process of sorting out her funeral.

But battling with the darkly comic elements, as Frank calls on his big sister Polly to come and help out, are elements of spooky fright-drama, long sequences of mundane soap-style dialogue and lashings of kitchen sink psychology.

When the members of the local folk dancing club start turning up to pay their respects, they reveal a more lively and vivacious side of the late Edith than Frank of Lorna could ever have dreamed of. Not to forget the toy-boy, Ted, who she had met at the club and had been dating for two years.

All of which should, on paper, be scintillating stuff, crackling along with humour and sparks of wit. But Willis is undone by long bouts of tedious and unnecessary dialogue of a kind that is almost, but noticeably not quite, natural.

doughty cast

Against such intractable verbiage, director Elizabeth Wilson and her doughty cast have little hope of success. They need to find natural voices here, ones which can allow the dialogue to flow as fast as is humanly possible to the next point where anything interesting happens or there is even an opportunity for character development.

Gill McEvoy and Judith Petrie. Pic: SDG

Sadly, Scott Kerr as Frank and Candice Sullivan as Lorna haven’t found a natural way of being together as husband and wife – it’s not helped as they have to tell each other things they would surely know. It is decidedly clunky plot establishment, but it still omits a whole load of niggling little details that are needed to frame the piece properly.

Several interesting things do happen – in Act One these mostly involve Edith’s body upstairs and the visits to it from Judith Petrie’s Val and Gavin Watson’s Reg, Edith’s two great pals from the folk dancing club. But it feels profligate to introduce the pair as a device to bring about spectral confusion which is then completely forgotten in Act Two. Although Val and Reg do have their uses as catalysts to plot explanation.

There’s also the strange young character Lucy, who Gill McEvoy plays with a moon-faced glaikit air, a do-gooder who hangs out with the crumblies in the folk dancing club just to be friendly and supportive. It’s convincing enough in a forlorn, almost Eeyore kind of a way, but McEvoy does need to flaunt a bit of anger in her final moments.

disruptive force

Alan Moonie makes a mellow fist of Edith’s toy-boy Ted, who largely acts as a disruptive force. But it is Eleanor Watson as Frank’s big sister Polly who ends up having most to do as the piece suddenly jumps into a denouement that has more resolutions than a season finale of Dynasty as it ties up plot lines that you didn’t even know existed.

Eleanor Watson and Scott Kerr. Pic: SDG

Watson and Scott Kerr are suddenly in a completely different play. One which Wilson seems completely at ease with – in comparison to her direction of the earlier scenes which need to be more dynamic in their staging.

However, given all that has gone before, the final few minutes are hardly worth the wait. And while Saughtonhall Drama Group has a strong reputation for seeking out and staging quirky and surprising plays, this is not one of them.

Running time two hours (including one interval).
Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, 87 Saughtonhall Drive, EH12 5TR
Tuesday 17 – Saturday 21 April 2018
Tue – Fri: 7.30 pm; Sat matinee only: 2.30 pm
Book tickets here:

Saughtonhall Drama Group website:
Facebook page: @saughtonhalldramagroup


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.