Poole & Parkstone Productions (P&P Productions) The Spire, Poole KD Johnson 20 October 2023
The Poole & Parkstone Players was established in 2005 as one arm of the multi-faceted P&P society, which also boasts the P&P Singers (Est. 1998) and the Musical Theatre Society, which celebrated its centenary in 2019. There is often some cross-over between the different arms and, indeed, between this society and other local theatre groups.
This evening’s performance provides excellent value in two plays for a tenner (£10) at the regular performance venue of The Spire in Poole High Street. Seating tonight is ‘cabaret style’, around tables, and the two plays are shown from opposite sides of the performance hall.
None the Wiser by Anthony Booth (not the same person as Tony Booth, the late actor and father of Cherie Blair – I have checked) is a glorious comedy romp for 6 people dressed as nuns. For some reason there is something inherently funny about nuns – or maybe not if you were educated by them in a convent school (I couldn’t say). I did wonder whether at least one of the nuns was going to be a man (think Sister Josephine [Jake Thackray] or Nuns on the Run) but it was not to be – in this production at least.
Catherine Attridge plays a convincing part as Vera (it says Alison in the programme – but there is no Alison). She effects an amusing contrast between the sweet, Irish, Mother Superior and her coarse alter ego. The other ‘nuns’ are Chloe Payne, Viv Colman and Anne Paget. Amanda King’s angelic portrayal of Sister Angela is very effective and her fit of laughter, when she discovers the truth about the others, has to be seen to be believed; Barbara Bone plays the supporting role of sister Rose.
The setting here in the apse of the church, with its huge rose window behind the action, is particularly effective for the Stonegate Convent – lending an ecclesiastical atmosphere which wouldn’t be there in most theatres; it also benefits from superb acoustics. Unfortunately, the second play of our double bill comes from the other end of the hall where the acoustics are not as good – members of the audience may struggle to hear some of the dialogue.
The Right Honourable Lady by Francis Beckett falls somewhere between a political satire in the vein of Yes Minister and the gritty drama of House of Cards. It features familiar, if uncomfortable, themes of class, of political aspirations overruling heart and mind, of venal corruption, the cruel world of tabloid journalism and ordinary people getting “thrown under a bus” for political expediency. Both Carole Allen, as journalist Flavia, and Nicola King, as Secretary of State Nicola Macdonald, are well cast in their roles and have mastered respectively the BBC Voice and the Ministerial Voice – both of which are familiar from the broadcast news. The action switches effectively from the right side of the hall, where Nicola’s flat is, to the newsroom at the Daily Trumpet on the left. Bob Rankin plays the outsider from the former Cricklewood Poly and Angus Maule plays the manipulative Chief Whip to great effect. My top marks for pitch, pace, pause, timing and inflection go to Veronica Ryder as the veteran tabloid editor, Miranda.
The double bill is repeated today (Saturday 21 October) in a matinée at 2:30pm and in the evening at 7:30pm.