As I shook off my rain-drenched coat and entered the room at The Spire all thoughts of the rainy night disappeared as I sensed the warmth of friendliness. Large circular tables, akin to that of a wedding reception, were steadily being filled up, with familiar faces greeting each other and new acquaintances being made in a fashion where you know you have friends in common, you just have to discover who. Such was the welcoming atmosphere that I would have felt comfortable attending on my own. A small bar area in the corner of the room, offering a good selection of drinks, added to the conviviality and the stages were literally set for what was to come with one stage at either end of the hall. Even though the opening night was well attended, the spacious nature of the converted church building meant any concerns of colds or viruses did not exist for me tonight.
The first of the One Act Plays is Alan Ayckbourn’s No Knowing. Sensitively directed by Chris Roberts this comedy of ‘two halves’ kept me focused for its entirety, with the simple stage set-up not detracting anything from the wonderful performances. Without giving too much away, the comedy starts with Elspeth (played with beautiful poise and sophistication by Veronica Ryder) and Arthur (performed with great strength and heart by Bob Rankin) celebrating 40 years of what appears on the surface a very ordinary and unspectacular marriage. They and their two children Nigel (Sean Beaumont) and Alison (Genette Churchill), who we learn through the journey of the play know the marriage is not as quiet and safe as it seems, open the play amongst the audience. Here the direction is beautiful and subtle, utilising the family gathering atmosphere already generated in the room to such an extent that tonight saw glasses raised by the audience as the toasts are made.
The play is very typical of an Ayckbourn with some very funny lines. There absolutely is not a weak link with four strong performances from four talented actors. The programme highlights that Sean Beaumont “due to unforeseen circumstances will be using a script for part of the performance”. I would like to congratulate Sean on giving a masterclass on how to act with a script and it appear invisible – his performance is that professional, strong and immersive.
Genette Churchill shows her strength of characterisations performing not only as the very relatable daughter Alison but also in the second of the One Act Plays, The Luvvies by Lynn Brittney, as Shirley the assistant to the Quiz Master (played so believably by Nick Clarke that I felt I was at a quiz!).
The Luvvies is, as we had all swivelled round to face the other way in the hall, a fantastic contrast in energy to No Knowing. Again, the audience (silently) is made to feel part of the action, this time at The Horbridge Amateur Dramatic Society Guild’s Quiz Night. This is a humorous play, where every character made me laugh. Stand out performances for me came from Barbara Bone (as the true luvvie June) and Patrick D’Ardenne (as the flamboyant and very likeable Nigel).
One point that distracted me slightly from the acting at times was fake pouring of liquid from a bottle as I prefer to see props being used to their fullest and not as in this case remain at their fullest – this was perhaps a first night issue. The play does contain moderate swearing, but it was in context of the humour of a charity ‘swear box’.
The evening flew by and I smiled all the way home.
I can’t recommend highly enough going along to experience the very capable, welcoming and entertaining Poole and Parkstone Players who will be performing their One Act Plays for another two performances: Saturday 22 October at 2:30pm and 7:30pm.