‘Natural Causes’ is a laugh-out-loud, black comedy written by the playwright Eric Chappell; Eric was born in Lincolnshire in 1933.
This 1988 play which at its premiere starred George Cole as Vincent, is now being presented by the Wanneroo Repertory in the Limelight Theatre on Civic Drive, Wanneroo. The two-and-a-quarter hour production plays at 8.00 pm every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday until 18th May. There is one matinée on Sunday 11th May at 2.00 pm.
The scene: Modern day, late Spring, in the lounge room / study and garden of a smart home in the wealthy area of the Thames Valley near Windsor.
The realistic set was designed by Robert Vincent. It is imposing, with acres of book shelving surrounded by white painted, wooden wall panels, a tasteful modern décor. Thanks to Mark Breadsell, the rear of the stage has a very large glazed window and a sliding double patio door. Beyond is an impressive garden vista created by talented artist Carol Keppler. Perhaps a little more lighting for the outside scene? Although I know it can be difficult to install effective lighting in tight narrow areas.
The beautifully furnished lounge had a modern Regency beige-striped, three-piece Chesterfield suite, a large marble fireplace, a drinks table, a stylish steel and glass desk with a harmonising leather chair. The numerous, fine smaller props added a final impressive touch, well done Helen Smolders, Lorretta Gibbs, Nina Otranto and Sandi Oakes. I have been assured that thanks to Daniel Toomath, no plants were hurt in the making of this play.
The solid, beautifully finished set was built by stage manager R. J. Smolders, Robert Vincent and Gordon Park.
The sound was by Roger Oakes. I liked the choice of music, especially at the final curtain.
The lighting by Wally Fry had a few very good atmospheric effects in the final scenes.
The curtains open to show businessman Walter Bryce (Les Lee) sitting at his desk, staring at a collection of suicide notes and looking very distressed. Sneaking in through the patio windows comes a spivvish looking man; he is Vincent Vincent (Gordon Park) who works enthusiastically for a clandestine company called Exodus that offers an unusual personal service. Vincent has had a poor education but is proud, loquacious and convincing.
Vincent Vincent is a pseudonym, because even with his colourless and flavourless potion offering euthanasia assistance can be a risky business. Vincent has been invited to the house by Walter, whose wife Celia (Fiona Forster) is constantly depressed and has no desire to continue her life.
Often acting as Walter’s personal assistant, the Bryces’ very good friend Angie (Colleen Bradford) also helps as Celia’s adviser and carer, but she too is becoming anxious. Angie called the Samaritans to see if they could help, but their compassionate volunteer, Withers (Peter Boylen) – who believes that everyone can achieve a happy carefree life – is some distance away and has a large workload with which to cope.
Will Vincent’s services still be required?
The 30-year old play’s script is a little longwinded and could be trimmed by about 10%, but the strong cast with good chemistry, managed to keep the pace going. With many awards and for her acting and directing, the play’s director Susan Vincent kept the cast working the stage, thus giving the performance plenty of visual interest. With so many twists, mistaken identities and bungling throughout the story, there were lots of belly laughs. Every member of the cast captured the correct style of comedy; a farcical or slapstick presentation could have killed the show, here it was mainly a dry relaxed delivery which made the whole situation logical and believable. There were several visual gags that had the audience in stitches.
This is a well-produced comedy that gave us tension, passion, visual humour and serious acting. Good fun that everyone from young teenagers, to the elderly citizens will enjoy. A fun night out.