REVIEW: Love on the Links
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REVIEW: Love on the Links, Salisbury Playhouse
“A joy to watch” – Helena Gomm sees Salisbury’s latest production score a hole in one.
Love on the Links is a new play, devised by Jon Glover and Edward Taylor and based on the golfing books of P G Wodehouse – and what fun it is! The action is set in the bar of Wood Hills Golf Club in leafy Surrey.
Or rather, it isn’t, as the bar is mostly used as a stage for the re-enactment of a series of riotous stories of love and lost love, acted out by the golf club members – stories which take us to chic Paris hotels, crocodile-infested jungles, into trains, taxis, boats, Moroccan restaurants … you name it.
In doing this, they are attempting to console new member Jack Ramage (Adam Jackson-Smith) who is having problems with his love life, and to chivvy him into renewed and more successful efforts to win the object of his desires, one Daphne Cartwright.
The proceedings are orchestrated and most of the stories are narrated by The Oldest Member, played by Michael Fenton Stevens. This seasoned veteran of the 19th hole, adept at scrounging his favourite tipple, White Horse and Malvern, from the others, has seen it all in his long association with the club.
He is, therefore, well-placed to recall and relate the details of the love triangles involving other club members which are reminiscent of Jack’s present romantic quandary.
All the characters in these stories are played by club members Lily (Jenna Boyd), Gloria (Tiffany Graves), Asser (David Shelley) and Turnbull (Rob Witcomb), together with Fitt the bartender (Tim Frances).
This talented gang, who claim that their only acting experience comes from a series of golf club pantos, seamlessly transition into the various characters, from crocodile-hunting adventurers to Moroccan waiters, occasionally taking over the narration from The Oldest Member.
And they are a joy to watch. Their main characters are as believable as the roles they assume in the play acting. The women, in particular, manage to maintain the catty competitiveness of their real relationship throughout.
Each actor is so thoroughly engaged in the action, that you have to keep your eyes moving over the whole stage in order not to miss a single nuanced gesture or telling facial expression. The play moves at a cracking pace, helped by admirable teamwork, and the delivery is flawless.
The set, designed by James Button, is a masterpiece. Ostensibly just a bar, its fixtures and fittings are instantly transformed into canoes, hookahs, jungles, hotel balconies, anything needed to enhance the storytelling. Handbags, golf bags and mops become crocodiles of ever-increasing length; a lampshade becomes a Moroccan fez.
And such is the quality of the acting, the direction and the choreography that we get the impression that the actors are actually improvising, having to grab the nearest thing available when the narration of The Oldest Member takes a sudden change of direction, as it frequently does. The experience is reminiscent of watching a particularly good episode of Whose Line is it Anyway?
Love on the Links is at the Salisbury Playhouse until Saturday 23rd June. I can thoroughly recommend it as the perfect entertainment for a summer’s evening.