Surprise Package

Aug 9 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆  Brightly cheerful

Saughtonhall United Reformed Church (Venue 273): Mon 5– Sat 10 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Surprise Package, Saughtonhall Drama Group’s comedy at Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, is garishly old-fashioned and very silly, but put together with genuine care.

Duncan Greenwood and Derek Parkes’s knockabout farce is set on a Spanish island in the 1970s, where two families who know each other from back home in the UK are surprised to meet up. It’s no accident, as Ron Tinsley hopes to rekindle his romance with Gloria Armitage despite the efforts of their respective families.

John Webster, Betty Meston and Scott Kerr. Pic: Sarah Howley

There is no shortage of comical misunderstandings, accidental compromising positions and mislaid trousers. In all honesty, this lacks the rigorous logic necessary to make farce work – situations arise, are apparently resolved, and simply repeated, as if this was several episodes of a sitcom rather than a play. However, it does have a primary-coloured, seaside-postcard energy, and director Morag Simpson knows exactly how to make the most of each set piece.

Scott Kerr as Alfred Tinsley represents the well-worn comedy trope of a Brit abroad, even though he gets uneasy going further than the end of his street. He is the one who gets involved in the most typically farcical situations, and does so with fine comic timing.

Charlotte MacDonald and Judith Petrie, as his wife and sister-in-law, have fewer comic moments to play with but discharge their roles effectively. Ishbel Shand relishes every grotesque moment as the women’s self-obsessed, intolerant mother. Similarly, Betty Meston gives Gloria’s snobbish mother Mildred a gleeful air.

Despite being the apparent drivers of the plot, Ron and Gillian have surprisingly little to do, but Simon Petrie and Gillian Foster make them likeable and believable.

Scott Kerr, Ishbel Shand, John Webster, Charlotte MacDonald. Pic Sarah Howley

The cast is filled out with the requisite ‘comedy foreigners’ and it is to the credit of Simpson and the respective performers that these roles actually appear like human beings rather than ciphers. Murray Petrie’s barman Juanito is played with a definite twinkle, while John Webster’s German tourist Herr Grotz has a certain dignity. Louise Starkey’s Rosita is a much more rounded performance than even the writers probably envisaged.

However silly much of the comedy may be, it is performed with enough commitment and relish to disguise how little sense it makes.

Keith Wilson and Elizabeth Wilson’s set is surely the sturdiest, most detailed and most convincing you will see anywhere on the Fringe, while Keith Wilson and Craig Oliver handle the sound and lighting with enviable smoothness.

Attention to detail on and off stage, added to this the customary warm Saughtonhall welcome, make this a pleasing production guaranteed to satisfy its audience.

Running time 2 hours 25 minutes including one interval
Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, 87 Saughtonhall Drive, EH12 5TR (Venue 273)
Monday 5– Saturday 10 August 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details:


Facebook: @saughtonhalldramagroup

Back Scott Kerr, Charlotte MacDonald, Louise Starkey, Murray Petrie, John Webster, Betty Meston, Simon Petrie and Gillian Foster. Front Lesley Webster, Ishbel Shand and Judith Petrie. Pic: Sarah Howley


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