Out Of Focus

Ferndown Drama  Barrington Centre, Ferndown Caroline Burr 18 October 2023

This gentle comedy concerns the numerous over-bookings made at a church hall. Helen arrives with her troupe of unruly Brownies, whilst Kath and Bob, a married couple, turn up for a game of badminton arguing about Bob’s flirty secretary Linda. Wayne a wannabe ladies’ man also arrives to play, along with David and Sue. Leonard turns up expecting to deliver an illustrated talk on steam locomotives, and lastly, Evonne the vicar’s wife, is ready to rehearse her first pantomime. Subsequently, everyone decides to pitch in to help her and perform in the show. Phew!

This was Peter Gordon’s first published play in 1990, and subsequently updated it in 2009. Despite this, it does show its age – the plot is quite contrived and includes stereotyped characters, which leaves the actors with little to work with.

Despite this, there were good performances, especially from Peter Watson who was very funny as the ‘anorak’ character Leonard who has no idea how boring he is and seemed slightly bewildered by most things, especially when he is supposed on stage as the Baron in the panto!  Kath was well-handled by experienced actress Dawn Hollington – the audience can always relax when she’s onstage – and Leah Jane was convincing as the sexy secretary Linda. Helen Beever was well cast as Helen the unpleasant Brownie leader looking for love. Scott Bedwell showed a lot of potential as Wayne delivering his funny lines well, revealing that despite his claims of a glamorous life he lives at home with his Mum!  Lee Tilson, a very good actor, was rather wasted as David, and the relationship between him and Sue wasn’t convincing, partly due to the large age gap. This is perhaps unfair criticism as there is sometimes a limited number of actors available to cast. Sue, played by Denise King did a good job with the material she was given, and always looks very glamorous on stage. Lee Neal was exactly right for the chirpy chappie part of Bob, who is misunderstood by his wife, although I did find his facial expressions over-animated at times. Perhaps working too hard was brought on by a script which was weak in places. Finally, Christine Hughes was the flustered vicar’s wife, Evonne, she has a lovely speaking voice and was particularly good in the last scene portraying an understated drunk.

All the characters were dressed appropriately, and attention to detail was given to the ad hoc panto costumes the characters wore, reflecting the apparent lack of backstage help for Evonne in trying to put on a show.

The set looked good, with appropriate notices, exit signs etc, although it did seem freshly painted – I think I would have made it look a bit more tired and dated. There was also a slight issue with the door on stage right, which looked a bit flimsy when it was pulled instead of pushed! I was also a bit puzzled about the placement of the ‘kitchen’ which obscured the exit/entrance on stage left, although I’m sure there was a good reason for this.

There were a few issues with the lighting which I’m sure will be ironed out as the run progresses, and perhaps some tabs music for the opening of each scene would enhance the atmosphere.

The play was well directed by Estelle Hughes – it is no mean feat moving up to nine actors around the stage so that the groupings look natural and there is no masking. She is obviously a big fan of the play having directed it once before in 2011.

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening with lots of laughs, so if you want an evening which isn’t too taxing you can catch further performances 19-21 Oct.