Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
It's the world that's mad, not us, says one character. And
while there's no essential need for these three plays to be
linked, the notion does proffer an element of shared experience.
Obsession, fanaticism, overriding guilt.....all play a part
here from the twists and turns arising from a woman's loneliness
through the gung-ho anarchy of a trio of environment savers
to the oddball emotions of a nightmare anniversary party.
The Talisman, striving for a heady mix, turn first to Alan
Bennett's Talking Heads for A Lady of Letters in which Anne
Bennett (no relation) gives a star turn as a grouchy curtain
twitcher whose growing intolerance culminates in an extraordinary
reversal of temperament.
It's a tour-de-force performance, cleverly under-played and
sympathetically directed by Caroline McCluskey to underscore
the author's barbed and observational wit.
Subtlety is deliberately thrown to the winds in Sparrows which,
under Wendy Anderson's strong direction, turns to rampant
farce as an ex-civil servant ("I was in Defra") falls victim
to the hysterical plotting of madcap wildlife and countryside
Colin Ritchie as the unfortunate tourist and Ann Richards
as a formidable champion of the bird world eke out the high
comedy of the piece, but it is rather let down by author Charles
Mander's poorly constructed finale.
The third play, Thermal Underwear, an astute early work by
Kenilwoth writer Andrew Davies, focuses on a disastrous family
gathering when simmering emotions finally erupt as water pipes
leak and floorboards growl. It allows for splendidly comic
portrayals from Vicky Whitehill and David Draper as the anniversary
couple and vigorous direction from Elaine Freeborn.
Weaknesses in some of the other performances, however, tend
to blunt the play's real edginess.
As an off-season offering, this mini-festival of well-chosen
works provides a refreshing theatrical outlet.