Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Not Now, Darling!

Swansea Little Theatre , Dylan Thomas Theatre, Swansea , August 18, 2004
One of the problems with comedy in general - and broad comedy in particular - is that one needs to loosen up, let one's hair down and enter into the spirit of the thing if one is to appreciate it. People who have left their sense of humour at the theatre door need not apply.

Attempting to over-analyse or intellectualise the genre is counter- productive, but it is something of which even the most gifted comedic greats have been guilty. Perhaps the most extreme example is that of the late great Tony Hancock, who picked away at all the elements that made his particular brand of comedy so special until there was nothing left.

In recent years, Swansea Little Theatre has benefited hugely from an influx of dedicated people who understand and appreciate the appeal of popular - dare I say lowbrow? - fare as well as classic works. The last few summers have seen the company mount stage adaptations of TV sitcoms such as 'Allo 'Allo and Are You Being Served as well as the Discworld stories penned by Terry Pratchett.

As a result, they have begun to attract younger audiences and a greater number of holidaymakers than ever before: the audiences for the more substantial works are still turning up in their droves, but a bit of fresh blood never did anyone any harm and indeed the company's fortunes are currently going from strength to strength. The fact that the theatre is sited right at the heart of the new SA1 development and is next door to Swansea's prestigious new Waterfront musueum can only do the venue an enormous amount of good.

It is against this background that the company's latest production should be seen for what it is: a deliciously old-fashioned and hugely enjoyable piece of light-hearted nonsense featuring performances from SLT's younger set. Samuel Beckett it ain't.

Yes, this is a dated piece - it is set firmly in the 1960s, so anyone coming along expecting an evening in the company of The League of Gentlemen is likely to be disappointed. And yes, times and tastes have changed - the story is set in an upmarket furriers, which is hardly likely to endear the production to the animal rights lobby, and the Benny Hill-style antics of several scantily-clad cuties betrays the fact that the play was written long before the adherents of political correctness started to emulate their Victorian forebears by covering up anything that might look vaguely like a pair of legs.

Director Eleanor McLeod - a veteran of John Chilvers' Grand Theatre Repertory Theatre during its heyday in the 1970s - understands this kind of comedy and for this project she was fortunate enough to acquire a younger generation of performers who share her enthusiasm: these include Nev Williams(a big fan of TV comedy, and it shows), Tim Pittman, Clare Friswell, Reshmi Mukherjee and Piers Morgan-Harvey.

Fiona Carr, as temptress Janie McMichael, was appearing on stage at the Dylan Thomas Theatre for only the second time and there is little doubt that a little more experience will boost her ability and stage presence.

My sole criticism - and members of the company will no doubt groan at this point - is that lace-topped hold-ups were not
available during the 1960s, added to which the odd suspender belt would not have come amiss. I am willing to concede, however, that this has more to do with my own personal tastes than with the play.

A more pertinent criticism is that the programme lacked details of the performers' previous work for the company. This was a shame, since newcomers to the theatre - and perhaps those former friends of the company who had not paid a visit to the venue for some time - might have appreciated knowing a little more about some of the newer performers.

All in all, however, this was good old fashioned fun: not side- splittingly funny but immensely enjoyable nonetheless. And
best of all, it was the kind of humour which contained not a hint of strong language, cruelty or malice - or even schadenfreude.

Those in search of more challenging and cerebral fare would undoubtedly prefer to see the company tackle Waiting for Godot, but this would hardly encourage the kind of audiences who flocked to the theatre in their droves to enjoy the kind of entertainment which is no longer available on TV.

To quote a line from Hancock's Half-Hour, "Why can't these intellectuals leave us simple people alone?"

Reviewed by: Graham Williams

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