Three Play Festival
Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, until Saturday
Reviewed by Peter McGarry
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 rescuers.
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.