‘Theft’ is a situation, comedy thriller written by Eric George Chappell, an English television comedy writer and playwright. He was the winner of the BAFTA award for best TV situation comedy – ‘Rising Damp’. Eric wrote 250 TV episodes and 40 plays. Born in 1933 in Grantham, Eric sadly died – still in Grantham – only four months ago, aged 88.
When it opened almost 50 years ago, the premiere of this very funny play starred George Cole.
Because it is mainly a situation comedy, the raucous humour is still quite fresh, the dialogue clever and the twists in the robbery fascinating.
Serial Productions who have brought to the Perth stage several TV comedies, are now presenting this show at the Old Mill Theatre, on the Corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road in South Perth. The two-hour performances are on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7.30 until the 20th of August. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm.
The Scene: It is October 1996. We find ourselves in the lounge of a smart house, in its own countryside grounds near London.
The set design and builder: Another George Boyd special. The lounge has a box seat window on the left with plush gold curtains. Then there is a brick fireplace with a mantlepiece and brass fire screen. On each side of the chimneybreast are bookshelves crammed with reference books. At the rear of the stage is a pair of patio doors leading to woodland. On the right wall is a door leading to a decorated passageway (often there is only an unlit black drape). A telephone table with a cream phone; then another door leading to the kitchen. Finally, a drinks table and flower display. Centre stage are two modern, elegant tartan winged back armchairs, with a side table on a smart cream rug.
The walls are matte burgundy and adorned with antique oil paintings.
Props: Lesley Sutton has sourced a few unusual pieces. Lesley works hard to bring authenticity and the correct era to all her sets.
Lighting design: John Woolrych has produced a well-balanced lighting design. The slightly dim tint gives the older home reality. The deep blue glow outside the patio doors reflects the October chill and night-time perfectly.
Lighting operator: Brendan Tobin
Soundscape: designed and operated by George Boyd
Stage manager: Rob Warner assisted by Lesley Sutton
Front of house: Warm welcome from Brenda Oliver-Harry
A smart, colourful, and innovative programme was available.
A wealthy but tight-fisted businessman, John Miles (John Pomfrett) and his attractive wife, Barbara (Jacqui Warner) who is very much under her husband’s thumb, have arrived home from their twentieth wedding anniversary celebration to find their house in a shambles. They are followed into the house by their closest friends, with whom they have just shared the evening. He is a nervous chap, Trevor Farrington (Ian Banks) who appears to be one of life’s losers and is with his sparkling wife, Jenny (Kylie Isaia) who has high standards in life.
The two couples check around the house for lingering burglars and to determine what has been stolen.
A smooth-talking but devious and wily burglar, Spriggs (Richard Hadler) makes an uncomfortable entry on the scene, before declaring himself to be a detective.
Is Spriggs working alone? Could he really be a detective? Could the house owners have arranged the whole situation for an insurance claim?
Seasoned director, Rob Warner has handled this uproarious play with skill. He has selected a superb cast of four ‘straight serious’ actors who are trying to cope with mad Richard’s clever dialogue! Richard has played dozens of parts ranging from the baddie in an Ellenbrook pantomime, to Greenmount’s George in ‘Virginia Woolf’. He just lights up the stage. Having the two couples, with four very different and richly developed characters as a bouncing board, the whole play swings from one strange situation to another.
A good fun night out. Just what everyone needs at this time of tension. Warning, Serial Productions’ shows usually sell out.