‘Old Actors Never Die … They Simply Lose the Plot’ is a farce from the pen of author, journalist and drama teacher, Londoner Lynn Brittney. Lynn has been writing plays and stories for primary school children set in Elizabethan England, for more than three decades. For adults she has written a series of espionage murder books called ‘Mayfair 100’ set in London during World War 1.
Lynn, her husband, children and dog now call their boat in a Thames marina home.
This play is described as a farce, but with only one door and a locked window I would have described it as a comedy.
This two and a quarter hour production is being presented by the Rockingham Theatre Company and can be seen at The Castle Theatre, 8 Attwood Way in Rockingham. The show runs on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8.00 until Saturday 22nd June.
The scene: Contemporary. A tastefully decorated lounge in the Mount Home for Retired Thespians, is a posh country house for elderly actors.
The Set: The pale powder blue loungeroom has fine artwork on the walls and quality furniture. There is a large 3-seater, leather Chesterfield sofa, three reclining lounge chairs, a coffee table and four dining chairs. The lower walls are panelled, and all the woodwork is painted white. The double window is covered by a cream lace curtain.
The excellent props were supplied by Michelle Lawson and Lana Brown.
In addition to the usual tasks, the stage manager Sue Lawson and her assistant Michelle Lawson had to provide an endless supply of tea and coffee for the scenes.
The well-balanced lighting and sound were operated by Jackie Hiscox.
The complex manager, Ann Thompson (Helen Brown) is showing a potential client, a well-known bit actor, Walter Neville (Rex Gray) around the Mount Home for Retired Actors, explain the facilities. En route, he is thrilled to encounter three good friends from his acting past Phyllida Sullivan (Beryl Francis), Jules Sullivan (Sue Murray) and Rebecca Sullivan (Sue Walker). Walter decides to stay.
The three Mrs Sullivans are all ex-wives of Edmund Sullivan (Ian Butcher) a famous actor and fulltime letch. As Marcia (Yvonne Miller) arrives with a tray of tea and coffee for the residents, she mentions that a new French actor has arrived and wants to move in. To their horror the ladies find it is Edmund in disguise; he is hiding from one of the Russian Mafia’s hitmen, Mike Molinsky (Peter Scarrott) and his cold killer accomplice, Ivana (Jacki Gahan).
Walter meets the home’s oldest inmate, Danny Stiller (Ronald Gent) an old superstar of the screen, who is now suffering from a broken heart at the loss of his wife. The young carer, Irina (Tegan Breann Joyce) seems to be the only one that can console Danny.
Why is Edmund being chased by the Mafia? What do his ex-wives have in mind for him?
Sorry, but the first Act was loquacious, pedantic and tedious as it took forever to set the scene for the much better and very funny second Act. Several of the actors had to be elderly – after all it is a retirement home – but their delivery was a little hesitant and at first I thought the show may be under rehearsed; but with such an experienced cast, I think it could well have been a slight disinterest in the script that tended to state the obvious. In Act One there were very few jokes and little for the actors to get their teeth into. Thankfully, after the interval the real fun started and the whole cast lifted, the characterisation improved, their rapport was back and the chemistry good.
Peter had to step in as the gangster at a week’s notice, but as always, he carried his part off well. Ron gave the performance of his life when paired with the new ‘quiet’ carer, Tegan Breann.
The director Alison Gibson, who was aided by her equally experienced and talented co-director Peter Francis, kept the action moving well, squeezed out every laugh from what I thought was a clever and funny premise. The main thing is that the full house audience gave an enthusiastic ovation at the end of the show. Well done to all concerned.