Cash On Delivery

Maskers Theatre Company    Maskers Studio, Shirley, Southampton David A Putley  18 March 2024

Cash On Delivery is a quintessential British farce relying on much door-slamming and quick-wit responses. Landlord Eric Swann is defrauding the British Government by accepting various types of financial support for former and fictitious tenants. The scheme teeters on the brink of revelation when authoritative figures drift in and out and are told ever more outlandish explanations. Chaos ensues.

Perhaps dated in some of the written play’s observations and quirks on what is deemed as comedy today, the Maskers’ cast, however, gave it their all with many fine comic moments and an energy and line remembrance that had to be seen to be believed including a wayward washing machine! A true team effort and all the cast were at the top of their game in picking up cues and movement of props, and all had each other’s back throughout.

Slickly directed by Sam Hussey in a gloriously secure set by Clive Weeks and team, (it needed to be with all the door-slamming) and use of access to an upstairs level, I always enjoy how this group use their narrow oblong space and they did not disappoint on any level. The washing machine was maybe a step too far in the suspension of disbelief (just bubbles through the door may have been better) but to keep this energy and work out all the entrances/exits/props etc for an ever-manic set of circumstances is to be highly applauded. I liked the solving of Uncle George’s movements in the 2nd half. Sound and lighting were also spot on and it was clear this was well rehearsed and produced by all the team, front and back.

As Eric Swann, Ian Wilson was rarely off the stage and I praise both him and James Lawson, as Norman Bassett, in their line learning, especially in their explanatory lines that were not learnt but immediate and frantic responses to the questions raised by the characters not in “the know”. They made “thinking on their feet” into an art form. The “Ashes” reference was well received. Both worked very well together and were enjoying the situations their characters were presented with.

Jane Russell as Mrs Swann brought a warm sense of confusion and upset to the proceedings, especially in the 2nd half when her world imploded in improbability. She was able to move from one catastrophe to another without losing the character’s resolve and the reconciliation scene was delightful. As Uncle George, Paul Baker was brilliant in his “knockout scenes” and genial affability. The long-john costuming was inspired and the timing was so good being exactly where he needed to be.

As Mr Jenkins, Jez Minns was the first of the authority figures to arrive. I liked the way he said his name initially, and going from official to washer repair man to drunk was well executed. He dealt with the frenetic pace of the characters around him by slowing it with his own confused observations enhancing the comedy and advancing the bonkers plot as all around erupted.

As Mrs Swann’s proposed counsellor, Marie McDade as Dr Chapman was so believable and a delight: her scenes with Mrs Swann were very cleverly interpreted and very amusing. The little movements like sliding into a chair when told to do so, and how she looked like she might want to say something but then did not, were great characterisation moments.

Sally Chessington was played by Emma Kirkpatrick and her empathy in wanting to assist was well played. I liked the way she made herself comfortable on the sofa and emotively moved around the stage. She and Philip de Grouchy made a good team together, who, as the Undertaker Mr Forbright, brought a nice level of gravitas, especially at the revelation of “lasso fever”.

It is always difficult to arrive at the end of a play. Still, Dawn Gatrell, playing the scary Ms Cowper in true Peggy Mount style, was initially very confused and abrupt, but managed to contain her character without cliché bringing a believability: the reaction to the “Mrs Swann” moment (no spoilers) was a comic gem. Similarly, Tash Priddle as Brenda had to take command of a completely out-of-control situation adding an extra layer in the movement towards the “solution” with energy and vim.

I am told the performances are almost sold out and based on this opening night experience I think it will only get better confirmed by the large amount of laughter coming from the audience tonight. Ticket holders will not be disappointed.