MYRTLE, LORD LUCAN AND SHERGAR
Colin Lawrence reviews NOBODY'S PERFECT
Simon Williams' comedy, or perhaps a better description would be farcical comedy, NOBODY'S PERFECT, is very much a one-trick pony in terms of plotline. However, it's a trick which works extremely well and is sustained long enough to avoid wearing thin and losing its audience.
Stephen's Smith's production for WCP suffered initially with a rather static first act which left the cast playing most of their lines directly out front rather than to each other. The result was that we were treated to a succession of, for the most part, very funny one-line gags which would have worked better if we had seen more face-to-face action between the characters.
Fortunately, we did eventually get the necessary personal inter-action, and a much improved pace in the second act which really enlivened the proceedings. The farcical situation of the dull statistician Leonard inadvertently winning a feminist publishing house literary competition and then having to take on the persona of his fictitious aunt Myrtle Banbury was a clever device. The situation became a personal nightmare for Leonard as he struggled manfully and womanfully to stay one step ahead of the feminist publisher, his surly teenage daughter and his irritating father, all of whom presented him with problems of varying complexity.
James Dowson as Leonard gave a convincing performance in his portrayal of both Leonard and his alter ego, Myrtle. When forced to take on the full Myrtle character in order to persuade his publisher of the author's existence, he neatly avoided the trap of presenting us with a camp caricature. Instead he played the writer with a degree of naturalism which was totally plausible allowing for the far-fetched situation. Leonard's relationship with his family members and the publisher also worked well as James deftly illustrated both sides of his character(s).
I don't have a problem with nepotism; neither does director Steve Smith, who cast his daughter Kattreeya as Dee Dee, Leonard's teenage offspring. In a small cast an essential ingredient is good teamwork and Kattreeya proved her worth alongside her more experienced colleagues. Her scenes with both Leonard and her grandfather, Gus, worked better in the second act when all three characters really were on the same wavelength. I've no doubt that we will be seeing more of this young actress in the future.
Ken Eason as the rascally Gus made the most of Leonard's discomfort adding fuel to a fire which was rapidly going out of control. In the early part of the play the director's out-front style didn't give him any real opportunity to effectively react to either Leonard or Dee Dee, but this didn't detract from a strong performance which exploited every comic opportunity. Pacing is everything in this type of play and the director can do much to elicit this; snappy dialogue requires snappy responses and reactions.
Completing the cast was Rosie Wilson as Harriet, the publisher. The character's dialogue is peppered with smart, sharp opinions, particularly during her telephone conversations with her unseen friend Lindsey. These lines, to be really effective, need to be attacked with a vengeance, we didn't always get this. But when we saw the softer side of Harriet's character, Rosie's delivery was much more credible. Her scene with 'Myrtle' was nicely handled and we were left wondering (as we should have been) whether the penny had dropped.
The four-way telephone conversation towards the end of the play was another scene where we had to suspend our disbelief given that Leonard was only outside the front door. It was moments like this, and there were many others, where farce rather than comedy raised its head. Generally this was all very enjoyable and much appreciated by the audience. Playing this style of comedy requires great skill. Timing, which is everything in good comedy/farce, although not all it should have been in the first act in was thankfully well in evidence the second act. We need to see the characters really react to the situation and more importantly each other.
Technically the production was well up to the standard we've come to expect from WCP with a warm inviting set representing Leonard's basement flat, the main front door and Harriet's office.
This was a production of a funny play in the hands of a competent team who knew what was required to deliver a good evening's entertainment. If this team manage to come up with that photograph of Leonard, Myrtle, Lord Lucan and Shergar, please send me a copy!