Higher Ground, Light Square
Reviewed Sunday February 21st 2010 (See Fringe guide for dates, times, etc.)
Presented by Guy Masterson’s Centre for International Theatre and Theatre Tours International.
Bookings: Fringetix & Venuetix outlets
Guy Masterson and Ronnie Toms appear in a witty and dark comedy, written by Tim Whitnall, in which Roy Tunt (Masterson), an avid birdwatcher, is interrupted in his pursuit of that one elusive bird, Vanellus Gregarious, or the Sociable Plover, by the unexpected arrival in the hide of a stranger, Dave John (Toms).
Roy has recorded sightings of 566 of the 567 species of native British birds and needs only a sighting of this one bird to gain his place in the record books and bird watching history. His remote hide on the Suffolk Marshes, just as the day dawns, should be a peaceful escape from the world, and he is not expecting an intruder. When Dave arrives Roy at first mistakes him for a fellow ‘twitcher’, also seeking to sight the Sociable Plover, but he soon realises that he is greatly mistaken: bird watchers do not carry automatic pistols.
There are myriad differences between the middle class Roy and the working class Londoner, Dave, but, even so, they are British, and one cannot turn away a guest, even an uninvited and unwelcome guest, in inclement weather. Noblesse Oblige applies and hospitality, even reluctantly, must be offered.
As the play opens Masterson shows his wizardry with working stage business as he enters and silently, with the aid of surgical gloves and a small dustpan and brush, cleans and tidies the hide, sets out all of his paraphernalia, the binoculars, pad, pencils, thermos and, most importantly, his snack box containing Scotch eggs and his unique meat paste sandwiches. Then he lifts the shutters and settles down to watch for the Sociable Plover. Masterson’s great skill in interpreting a role and immersing himself fully in the character has already told us vast amounts about Roy, with nary a word spoken. We know that he is way beyond fastidious, to the point of being anally retentive. This is a man who would be virtually impossible to live with and, as we discover later, his wife thought so, too.
Dave, however, is the complete opposite, a wide boy from the big smoke. The difference is easily seen when Dave is telling of his past jobs and mentions that he was a painter. Roy asks if he painted landscapes of portraits and is bemused when Dave announces that he painted corridors. They are from different worlds and this adds a great deal to the intricate interplay between them in the ensuing conversations as an uneasy comradeship gradually develops.
These two consummate actors bounce off each other, weaving their way through all of the plot’s twists and turns, exploring the differences in the language used by their characters and completely engaging the audience’s attention.
Masterson and Toms are a terrific double act as Toms acts largely as the straight man to Masterson’s comic inventiveness. This is a display of generous give and take, as the focus moves to and fro between the characters. It is a vocal dance in which these two highly skilled performers, diverse as their characters are, make us believe that Roy and Dave could really develop a mutual respect and understanding, even an emerging friendship, in such a short time.
This play has got to be on your list this year if you lay claim to being a lover of the best that theatre has to offer.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, GLAM Adelaide Arts Editor.