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No Trivial Pursuit, This!

by Margaret Watkins – 5th October 2015
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Lynne Colley, well known for her leadership of the popular Haddenham Youth Theatre and her accomplished acting for Haddenham Players, directed the recent production of 'Trivial Pursuits' presented at St Mary's School on 2nd and 3rd October.

Lynne set herself, and her actors, a challenge with this bitter sweet comedy, encompassing changes of mood, dialogue which moved swiftly from one group of actors to another and alternating focus from one character's concerns to another. The cast, under Lynne's direction, rose to the challenge and, working as a team, provoked laughter and pathos in quick succession.

The action took place at a BBQ hosted by Nick, the business manager of a local Operatic Society, and his wife Roz, ably played by James Kershaw and Julia Witcher. The members of the Society were assembled to learn from Nick which show would be the next production. Much of the humour comes from the dilemmas the hapless Nick unsuccessfully faces during the evening, from the failure to light the barbecue to the efforts he has to make to cover up from his wife his indiscretions with Jessica, one of the members of the group.

The cast, several of whom were acting with Haddenham Players for the first time, kept up a fast pace as one by one they revealed a hidden personal agenda. Unfortunately for Nick, their ideas for a future show and their own potential for starring roles in their chosen shows do not coincide with the show he has in mind and the role he has promised to the alluring young actress Jessica, played by Cassy Childs.

Much of the humour in the first half of the play was provided by a wonderfully camp performance by Mike Sullivan as Teddy in a wig that had to be seen to be believed and Joyce, played by Sally Fleming as a reforming alcoholic who lapses into a more and more drunken hysteria and finally teeters across the stage in the most amusing depiction of the staggers that I have ever seen. Their duets from 'Oklahoma', their preferred show, were suitably raucous and out of tune!

Underlying all this comedy is the darker side of the action, the broken marriage of Derek, with Simon Fraser convincingly playing a husband in despair because he has bought his wife Deirdre, Hannah Austin, a washing machine, a microwave and a food mixer and cannot understand what more she wanted in her marriage. The actors had the difficult task of changing the mood of the play and yet getting a measure of grim humour out of this sad situation. They succeeded admirably, evoking a quietness in the audience as they tried to come with grips with their failings in the marriage and laughter as they became reconciled after Derek injured his leg whilst trying to jump off a roof!

The main players were admirably supported by Sarah Wood as Pearl who tried in vain to point out that the company was in the red and probably could not afford to put on any productions; the aptly named Mona, who wanted to present an all singing and dancing production to show off her talents as a choreographer, played with comic skill by Jean McConaghy; and Eddie, a man obsessed by television, played by Gordon Lawson with nice touches of incomprehension that other people did not share his obsession.

The success of the play was a tribute to Lynne Colley's determination and perseverance as the original production had to be postponed and new members of cast introduced at a late date. The fact that they presented an ensemble piece in which there were no weak links says much about Lynne's undoubted gifts as a director and the talent of the actors.

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