On Stage: Reviews

Review: Last Train to Scarborough

High Tide readers may never have experienced the joys of a night in a Scarborough boarding house. If you ever do, you’d better hope it’s not like the Paradise on Bright’s Cliff.

 

Detective Jim Stringer (Matthew Booth) of the railway police arrives from York to investigate the disappearance of a colleague in suspicious circumstances. Against his better judgement he follows the victim’s last known movements by staying in the same room at the Paradise. But will Stringer survive to see the morning?

 

His fellow guests are a motley crew. The interplay between the seductive landlady Miss Amanda Rickerby (Jennifer Bryden), her brain-damaged brother (Liam Evans-Ford) and the two paying guests, the pompous Fielding (Steve Huison) and the sleazy Vaughan (Andy Cryer) is an utter delight; in a classic whodunnit set-up they all seem to dislike each other, while they are all apparently bound together by a terrible secret. Who murdered the railwayman and why, and who is covering up for them?

 

This adaptation by director Chris Monks keeps the faith with Andrew Martin’s original novel. The production uses projections to give a sense of Stringer’s own struggles in piecing the story together. This and the set design work really well in the service of a high-class entertainment. I sometimes think we under-appreciate the extraordinary amount of acting talent we have in this country. Here again five actors, none of whom is a star name, turn in exceptional performances full of versatility, charm and occasionally bite.

 

So who did do it? And will they get Jim as well? You’ll have to go and see for yourself.

Roger Osborne

 

Last Train to Scarborough runs at the SJT until 14 June

www.sjt.uk.com/content/last-train-scarborough

 

Review: The Memory of Water

‘Someone dies. You drink whisky.’ So says bereaved daughter Mary, and she and her two sisters are out to prove the truism. Gathering for the funeral of their mother Vi, the sisters bicker and complain all the way to the crematorium. There’s pissed-up ranting, and sometimes just ranting.

The play starts well with some tantalising threads about the way we each remember shared experiences and who ‘owns’ them. Then we find out why each daughter feels aggrieved. The best moments are saved for the fleeting scenes with Vi. Shamed by super-clever doctor Mary who claims mother knows nothing, yet still taking huge pride in her daughter, Vi hits back. ‘I know wanting, and no-choice. That’s not nothing,’ she yells.

For the most part though, the touch needed for such heavy subject matter is not light enough. Sub-plots come and go and the interesting central idea, that we pick up our mothers’ traits subconsciously, is left hanging.

Janis Bright

The Memory of Water runs at the SJT until 5 April

Review: The Schoolmistress

Life is full of little misunderstandings, farce is full of big ones – or in this case small deceptions that grow bigger. The setting for Arthur Wing Pinero's comedy is a girls’ school over a Christmas holiday, with four young lovelies plotting to party with visiting gentlemen.

 

But being British, this is not a classic sex farce (we leave that to the French). Instead the schoolmistress and her husband go head to head with each other and with a crotchety admiral and his wife – parents of one of the girls. The plot is both essential and irrelevant – it’s there to give a platform for the comedy.

 

There are plenty of excellent set-pieces, the best involving Peter Macqueen as Rear Admiral Rankling and Richard Treverson as Vere Queckett, while Sarah Moyle is fabulously believable as a schoolmistress who wants to be Brunhilde. Catherine Kinsella manages to hold the whole thing together with wit and charm.

 

In the great tradition of farce Queckett has to invent a whole fictitious family to account for the girls’ presence; the admiral’s cross-examination is a masterclass in how to ratchet up the humour to breaking point.

 

Strangely enough one of the highlights of the play was entirely unscripted (though presumably directed) as the cast carried out the extensive set change at the end of Act Two, entirely in character. It got some of the biggest applause of the night. Altogether a delightful evening.

Roger Osborne

The Schoolmistress runs at the SJT until 4 January. Box office 01723 370541


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