Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Humour to suit all tastes from the pen of a Python

ANYONE seeing the name of Michael Palin as the author of a play would assume that

ANYONE seeing the name of Michael Palin as the author of a play would assume that Monty Python would be well represented — they would be wrong.

Michael Palin’s only play, The Weekend, has much light humour as well as black and, perhaps surprisingly, a considerable amount of deep emotion and family controversy.

The play is set at the home of Stephen and Virginia Febble in Suffolk in the Nineties. All Stephen wants is a quiet life but, to his horror, he finds his long-suffering wife has arranged to fill the house with guests for the weekend.

His daughter, Diana, gormless son-in-law Alan, precocious grand-daughter Charlotte and incontinent dog Pippa, duly arrive. They are joined for dinner by his best friend, Duff Gardener, whose wife, Bridget, is accompanied by Hugh Bedales, her smooth-talking society chiropodist.

The exasperated Stephen reaches, in his usual fashion, for the whisky bottle and fills the house with sarcastic comments and cantankerous behaviour.

The result is an extremely funny play with a dark side lingering just beneath the surface. Ian Miles captures excellently the character of the grumpy, petulant and sulky Stephen. His alcoholic consolation is not overdone and his overbearing dealings with his wife and friends do not get in the way of the comedy. When required, the emotional revelations are well demonstrated.

Virginia, Stephen’s wife, has much to put up with but she copes with his sarcasm and gets on with entertaining her guests. Maggie Stokes plays the part to perfection.

Cathy Brabben, Paul Muston and Charlotte Broadbent play members of Stephen’s family and each character is well portrayed as the actors pick out both the comedy and the tragedy of their parts.

The Gardeners and Bedales, played by Terry Sopp, Heather Cannan and Tom Brabben, added to the comedy, especially in the dinner scene where the best is made of the situation created by a crowded table. The cleaning lady and God are played by Diana Pattinson and Roger Kendal.

Congratulations must go to the director, Geoff Stokes and to the backstage crew who created a smooth running and enjoyable production, of which Chiltern Players can be proud.

There is one criticism, however. The layout of the programme was confusing. The tradition of listing characters in order of their first entrance has been ignored and the descriptions are, in some cases, incomprehensible. This made it difficult for those who did not know the play to distinguish the characters.

Nevertheless, this was a good evening’s entertainment much enjoyed by the audience.

Review by: Bill Port

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