Presented by Tea Tree Players
Reviewed Wed 13 Feb 2019
Samuel Creighton has assembled a cast of Tea Tree Players stalwarts for his production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Life and Beth. A comedy in the style that only Ayckbourn can write needs a cast of seasoned actors who have an understanding of British comedy and how to deliver the goods.
Life and Beth is a real challenge. The not so grieving widow (Lisa Wilton), annoying sister in law (Fiona Stopp), unctuous priest (Robert Donnarumma), insensitive son (Benjamin Forster), long suffering girlfriend (Jean Collins) and dead husband (Peter Collins). Who could ask for anything more really? It’s comedic heaven!
Ayckbourn’s clear definition of each character is visible throughout the piece; his great talent was to allow us to recognise ourselves on stage. I chuckled my way through the recognition of so many of the people who populated the village in England where I grew up. The vicar – starved of any meaningful relationship, searching for some comfort in the arms of the occasional willing parishioner. The sister in law – just one more drink to cover an inner life full of regret and yearning and just let me have one more shot at bedding the vicar! The son whose inability to recognise emotional need means he barrels through life at the expense of everything around him – including the woman he loves. The girlfriend – distanced from the relationship because the boyfriend is in a world of his own – knock, knock – you’ll have to see it! Finally, the grieving widow, well almost grieving, and the dead husband who refuses to die.
Without giving the game away this is a comedy of manners, a comedy of errors and a comedy not lost on the first night audience, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I love an audience that lets the actors know they are caught up in the story when the occasional “Oh Dear”! is heard above the dialogue. This is vintage Ayckbourn, sarcastic, caustic and downright funny. The dialogue sparkles and the occasional first night hiccup gets lost in the knowledge this production will grow into its paws in a day or two.
When the dialogue tightens up and the cast realise they have a piece of very entertaining theatre to play with, it will be even more of a joy to watch than it was on its first night. Life and Beth needs the confidence to let the pace and energy of the writing transfer seamlessly into the dialogue and the cast will really have fun.
The set design (also by Samuel Creighton – who’s a busy boy then) and the creative and effective lighting and sound design by Robert Andrews really added to the effectiveness of the play. Though I must say a little more volume on the carols would have helped.
Tea Tree Players have an ardent and loyal following and they will not be disappointed by this latest offering. Iron out those glitches, get a bit more pace and energy into the delivery and this will be another successful Tea Tree Players offering. A fun night in the theatre.
Reviewed by Adrian Barnes
Venue: Tea Tree Players, Cnr Yatala Vale Road and Hancock Road, Surrey Downs, 5126
Season: Wednesday 13th to Saturday 16th February at 8.00pm Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd February at 8.00pm Matinee each Saturday at 2.30pm
Duration: Two and a bit hours with a twenty minute interval.
Tickets: $17 full price $15 conc
Bookings: Box Office Tues – Thurs 10am-1pm (08) 8289 5266. Or website https://teatreeplayers.com/