Out of Focus

An unfortunate overbooking of the village hall results in mayhem. Rather than their expected Brownies meeting, badminton matches (or is it table tennis?!) or fascinating slide presentation, the locals arrive to find themselves caught up with the upcoming pantomime.

With each having their moments to shine individually, the Maskers cast gel together splendidly in a way that the characters do not!

The ensuing chaos and confusion are down to Evonne, the Vicar’s nervous and disorganised wife, who is responsible for the village hall bookings and directing her first-ever pantomime. Sue Dashper portrays her panicky alter ego with first rate timing, physicality and focus.

Ian Wilson is outstanding as Leonard, totally immersed in his character and absolutely believable as the eccentric with the slide show for every subject, one minute boring and infuriating the group, the next endearing them with his peculiarities, even gaining their sympathy when he is disappointed by their indifference to his slide shows.

Johnny Carrington (Bob) and Marie McDade (Cath) brilliantly capture the ‘seven year itch’ with candour as the bickering married couple, especially when Linda (Bob’s secretary and Cath’s nemesis) arrives to join the badminton match! Emma Kirkpatrick (Linda) and Lee Taylor (Wayne) may be new to Maskers, but they have a promising future with them if this production is anything to go by!

Chris Baker dominates as the pompous and officious Brownie leader, Helen, with a very subtle shift into a slightly softened character when David first catches her eye. Poor David, only there as a visiting badminton player, uses all his police experience and diplomatic efforts to rein her in, even though he only has eyes for Sue. Chris Williams (David) and Angela Stansbridge (Sue) are charismatic, confident and charming in their roles, skilfully portraying their personalities with finesse.

This is a thoroughly entertaining production from Maskers under Hazel Burrows’ fine direction. There are no weak links in the performances, and the pace and comic timing are excellent overall (bar a couple of first night minor hesitations, which I’m sure will disappear as the run continues). Every action is driven with intent and purpose in a very natural manner, impressively delivered alongside the dialogue. There is largely a great attention to detail in the props and set dressing, from additions to the village notice boards, the kitchen area and Leonard’s in-depth notebook.

There may be moments in the script that haven’t dated particularly well, but the comic performances lift the production for a very enjoyable evening back in the Maskers Studio.

Out of Focus runs until Saturday 30 October, 7.30pm (8.00pm on Friday 29 October; no performance on Monday 25 October).