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The Unvarnished Truth

You’ve heard of the ‘Multiverse Theory’, right? The theory that there are maybe an infinite number of universes running parallel to our own, each one similar to the last, but with subtle or maybe dramatic differences.

Well, imagine yourself transported to an alternate universe where everybody speaks every word as though they are in a Ray Cooney farce from the 1970s and the situations they are in are dealt with in a manner we would perceive as massively unnatural, but, in the ‘Farciverse’ as I will call it, a totally normal and natural way.

A place where, say, the death of your spouse during a mildly physical argument is dealt with, by yourself, as “an act of stupid folly”, followed, amusingly, by three other deaths in your home. “This is a ridiculous scene” – is a line from one of the characters, and could not be more apposite.

The Unvarnished Truth inhabits this Farciverse. The writing and format of this play is ridiculous. From start to finish. It only lends itself to pure ‘Farce Speak’ and ‘Farce Situation’.

BUT if, when watching it, you put yourself there – in this pure, unadulterated, unnatural Farce Land – it has the potential, if done right, to be a quite entertaining evening.

Thank goodness, then, for All Saints. They throw themselves totally into the Farcey fray with pace and a LOT of energy and produce, to my mind and the minds of the many, many people in the audience, a very entertaining evening with plenty to laugh about.

Chris Meineck is the main male character, Tom Bryce. He has a lot to say and do and does it in a pure “Oh crikey” style and, with the whole production hanging on him, really keeps the pace moving.

Rosie Hodgkinson as his wife is also a lot of fun to watch when ‘alive’. Playing ‘dead’ for any period of time is really quite difficult, but she really, really aces it and is very convincing.

A welcome return to the stage for Phil Vivian sees him as our farcical first policeman. Plenty of laugh out loud moments, but none more so than the beanbag moments. Hilarious, really, although my internal critic was asking “Why the beanbag… WHY? There are chairs everywhere…” Then, I remember. Farciverse.

No farce is complete without the Mother-In-Law. Sheila Clapcott as Mrs Cartwright makes the most of her time on stage, and is also a very convincing corpse, along with the other Farciverse staple, the landlady, Mrs Stewart-Dubonnet, well played with lots of energy, and then well died by Mary Almeida.

Tim Calvert has a job on his hands as Bill Carlisle, the Agent (oh, did I mention that the main protagonist is a writer? Well, where are we? Yep!!). He gives a great set of door slamming moments and superb incredulity, whilst being blessed with the gift of the “This is a ridiculous scene” line, which must have raised eyebrows in rehearsal. A good paced showing from Mark Andrews as the Inspector and a nice cameo from Maria Barber near the end, whose presence somehow gives the Farciverse its obligatory doors-opening-and-closing show-stopper, followed by another convincing ‘being dead’ bit.

Finally, a word about the set. Excellently laid out. Even a toilet… But maybe a front door that isn’t an interior door would be more in keeping with… oh, I’m forgetting where this is set again.

The play is ridiculous, yes, and if you just see and hear that, then you really need to open your eyes and ears, let go of normality, let yourself be transported to the Farciverse. It’s actually quite a fun place to watch. And the inhabitants are portrayed by All Saints in a fast paced, highly amusing and energetic manner which I assume the writer, Royce Rylon, most definitely would have had in mind.

Further performances at the De La Salle Theatre, St Peter’s School, Southbourne on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 September at 7:30pm, with a matinee on the Saturday at 2:30pm.