Souter Steals The Show!
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REVIEW: Ten Times Table by Alan Ayckbourn – Maskers Theatre Co. Nuffield Theatre Southampton 2-6 February 2016 – where Souter steals the show!
Not particularly known for mainstream comedy – more for classic, period drama and big production stuff – Maskers Theatre Company took to the Nuffield stage for their annual winter slot with an Ayckbourn classic from the 1970s but which belies its 40-odd years.
Veteran Masker Hazel Burrows directed and many another Maskers ‘vets’ took to the stage, although there were a couple of new faces.
Ayckbourn’s ability to take everyday situations and turn them into often dramatic but hilarious situations is renowned. Someone once said that this playwright is at his funniest when the mood is at its darkest. Inevitably, therefore, the planning and execution of the Pendon Pageant, a valiant attempt to knit together a committee worthy of Dibley Parish Council into a full blown costume event is, of course, fated from the start, given the oddball characters that are thrown together.
Two thirds of the play centres around the planning meetings and anyone who has ever been on such a committee will recognise the affable chairman, his snobby wife, the pedantic secretary and his deaf mother who has been recruited in to take the minutes. Not so familiar will be the Marxist rebel who we know from the start will rock the boat.
The final third of the play transcends into out and out farce as the pageant descends into chaos and the police have to intervene to stop all out war.
Review Ten Times Table – Strong Performances and Souter Steals the Show!
There were some strong performances including Ken Hann as the Ray Dixon, the Chairman, Christine Baker as his wife and newcomer (to Maskers at least) Nick Longland as the pedant, but John Souter cross dressing as Audrey Evans, the strange lady with the bag of sweets and a larger bag of knitting, absolutely stole the show.
It didn’t matter what else was going on onstage but one’s eyes just kept falling on Souter’s antics, whether attempting to stay cool with a portable electric fan – not in the script as I recall – fiddling with a noisy hearing aid, rummaging in her handbag for knitting or notes or sharpening a pencil. I’m sure Sir Alan would have approved this version of the character: half pantomime dame, half playing it dead straight and getting all the laughs in the process.
There was some rather mismatched casting age-wise, sound effects were a little weak and the pace/projection could have been a little quicker/stronger but overall a very entertaining evening’s entertainment, especially in the second half.