Review Author: Joe Clarke
I returned to the Brindley Theatre this evening to watch Centenary Theatre Company’s production of Trivial Pursuits. Trivial Pursuits is a play by Frank Vickery, set over the course of one evening at the summer barbecue of the Thelwood and District Operatic Society. The director, Nick is about to make the impending announcement of the new musical, however, he has promised the leading part to four different people – cue the drama!
This production was directed by Ria Hall. Overall, I was pleased with the look and feel of the show. I liked how the action changed to different areas of the stage to represent the various parts of the garden and porch. It clear that a lot of work has gone into characterisation and that was one of the stronger elements for me. There were a few points in the play that I questioned directorial choices. For example, having the barbeque so far back on the porch meant that at times, actors were talking upstage. I felt that it could’ve been brought more into the action downstage and used effectively, like they did with the drinks trolley. There was a scene in the second act when lots of the actors were talking over each other (arguing). Whilst I liked this, and felt it brought a good energy, I questioned the use of the spotlight. I understand it was used to enable the character of Derek to go offstage and for stage crew to remove the satellite dish, however, because this convention hadn’t been established, as well as the fact that they characters were in the garden, I felt that it could’ve been done a different way. I also question some of the areas of location. For example, the character of Derek was standing practically next to Deidre in the garden – shouting, and Diedre was ‘too far way to hear him’. Overall, there was a distinct lack of pace to parts of this play. I feel that it is the fault of the play itself and not the actors. The characterisations were great, storytelling was good, and projection was generally excellent.
Technically, there were not many elements used in this production and it didn’t really need it. The stage had a general wash throughout, with the use of fairy lights to signify the changing of time. If I’m being picky, the general wash could’ve been a little more obviously darker as the sun went down. The was a great use of the drinks trolley and props in general. Visually it was nice to watch, with the benches and chairs all facing the audience. I also felt that generally all of the actors had great projection, with the stage mics picking up the voices well. The set was purpose built and looked great. It enabled the actors to use various entrances and exits, adding to the farcical elements.
This production has a cast of ten actors. Each actor brought their own energy and told their story well.
Teddy, the flamboyant leading male, was brilliantly played by Matt Orrillard. Matt was suitably understated in his campery and brought a brilliant energy to the stage. I thought he had a brilliant rapport with the character of Joyce, and they worked well together. Matt is very well suited to comedy and he had great comic timing throughout.
Joyce, played by Sara Worton, was the lush of the group. Sara played an excellent and believable drunk and was suitably unsuitable as the evening progressed; culminating in a brilliant rendition of her leading lady number! (I don’t want to give the game away)! Her rapport with Matt (Teddy) was brilliant.
Mona, the choreographer of the society was played by Hayley Northey. For the most part, Hayley did well to convey the bitchy side to Mona and was suitably snide in her storytelling. I felt at parts, Hayley lacked truth with some of her characters true feelings which meant that the character was unlikable throughout. By showing a different side to her character, it would’ve enabled the audience to empathise with Mona and understand her a little more.
Pearl, the eldest of the society was played by Marilyn Baxter. Marilyn showed a softer side to Pearl which meant that we liked her character. She seemed the most normal of the bunch. It might’ve been nice to see a more deranged side to Pearl, showing the audience that she was fraught about the societies lack of funds.
Robyn Murphy played the role of Roz, the wife of the director Nick and sister of Joyce. Whilst Robyn had great diction, articulation and projection I felt that her character was a little bland. I didn’t really believe that Roz and Joyce were sisters, nor did I feel that there was any connection to her husband Nick. As I say though, technically, Robyn is vocally great.
Rebecca Gray played the role of Jessica, the newest member of the society. Rebecca was very understated as Jessica and was interesting to watch. I felt that Rebecca underplayed her role which meant that at times, it lacked energy and attack. I also lost some lines due to the lack of projection. I thought that Rebecca was well cast in this role, I just felt like it needed more to be on the same level as some of the others.
Kenneth McConaghy played the role of Derek, the boring geek. Kenneth is a fantastic actor and very watchable. He commits to his role with gusto and is an excellent storyteller. If I’m being very picky, I felt that Derek was a little too well spoken, but this by no means distracted from his character or the story.
Andrew Dunn played the role of the director Nick. Andrew was suitably well cast and did well to try and hold the story together. I felt that there were a few times that Andrew was a little laid back. For me, it might’ve been funnier if Nick was a little more highly strung in keeping all of the secrets.
Derek’s love interest, Deidre, was played by Amanda Avery. Amanda is very watchable on stage and was vocally excellent. Her projection in particular was brilliant. I felt that Deidre was a played a little too ‘normal’ and that her character would’ve never have gone out with Derek or Eddie. For me, it would’ve been great to see if Amanda played Diedre little geekier to match the other geeks. This is just a personal choice though.
Peter Brennen was excellent as Eddie, the TV obsessed freak! Peter stayed in character throughout and was both extremely watchable and likeable. Peter is a brilliant actor and I enjoyed the short amount of time that he spent on stage.
Centenary Theatre Company are used to producing brilliant plays and musicals. For me, this play was okay. It was funny in parts and was a good showcase for some great actors. I’m not sure if it’s the play or not but I wanted to see more farcical elements throughout with a much faster pace, allowing the audience to sit on the edge of their seats. Instead, we sat back and enjoyed a good night at the theatre, having the occasional laugh in the right places. The characterisations and the storytelling were great – I’m just not sure that this play was.
I thank Centenary Theatre Company for their hospitality, and I wish them all the best for their next production of ‘Strictly Musicals’ later on in the year!