REVIEW: Convincing performances and lots of laughter in mysterious comedy

Picture by Joe Mott
Picture by Joe Mott

Good Night Mrs. Puffin, Wivelsfield Little Theatre, May 19-21

The Fordyce family is looking forward to Christmas and the marriage of their daughter Jacqueline to Victor Parker.

Everything’s going well until the arrival of Mrs Amelia Puffin who has had a dream about the family and declares that Jacqueline will not marry Victor. At first the family are sceptical about this prediction until things occur that Mrs Puffin has already seen in her dream.

The ensuing chaos and neat resolution formed the basis of Wivelsfield Little Theatre’s spring production, Good Night Mrs Puffin by Arthur Lovegrove, directed by Penelope Bennett and ably assisted by Emily Whiteman.

It’s a comedy and I’m pleased to report that there was plenty of laughter from the audience at the performance I saw.

If I had any criticism it would be that this was a ‘wordy’ play with lots of interjections by the entire cast, so cues needed to be picked up quickly. Unfortunately, pauses did occur, which tended to slow the pace of the play.

Amelia Puffin was played by Pearl White who put a London accent to good use, portraying well someone who was determined to set things right despite the doubts of her husband, Alf, and the scepticism of the Fordyces.

Ethel Fordyce, the matriarch of the family, was played with quiet dignity by Nan Crofton who could only look on while everything around her disintegrated. She was ably supported by Rick Farmer who played her husband, Henry Fordyce, with good comic timing. The actors playing the rest of the Fordyce clan – eldest daughter Jacqueline (Susie Beer), youngest daughter Pamela (Amy Kelly) and only son Nicholas (Mike Towner) – all brought their own individual talents to the characters, making the family unit very believable.

Stephen Parker, the father of the groom, was played by Bill Colbourne who conveyed his exasperation well. His son Victor (played by Tim Bishop) was the very opposite of his father, quiet and shy but coming good at the end with a rousing speech. Rounding off the cast was the love interest for Jacqueline, Roger Vincent, played by Kevin Kelly and the annoyed maid, Annie, played by Jo Callaghan, who seemed to do everything in the household.

The set, built by Mike Sewell, David Gibbs, David Callaghan and WLT members reflected the ’60s feel of a comfortable middle-class home. Under the watchful eye of stage manager Paul Welch, the scene changes were slick and all the exits and entrances spot on. Sue Welch and Anne Woodbridge helped make the set reflect the period. Also helping in their unseen, but nevertheless important roles, were Paul Bloxham and Peter Corbett (sound and lighting, respectively), Suzanne Bevan and Elizabeth Burton (wardrobe) and Christine Elwell-Sutton (make-up).

In the programme one of the cast members said: “Amateur stage can struggle in this multi-media age and the support of audiences is much appreciated and makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

With these comments I would wholeheartedly agree and, with productions like this one by WLT, it will certainly fight the am-dram corner successfully.

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