‘The Kingfisher’

‘The Kingfisher’ is a charming comedy, written in 1977 by dramatist and rather ropey politician, William Douglas-Home (pronounced Hume). William’s eldest brother, Alec, was the UK’s Tory Prime Minister for one year in the Sixties.

From a wealthy home, William studied at Eton School and was accustomed to the privileged life, even having servants. During the war, as a partial pacifist and being very anti Churchill (his brother’s party leader), he found himself in prison for not carrying out the military orders to attack Le Havre.

A huge amount of credit must be given to the seasoned team at Harbour for putting on this comedy. The play they intended performing fell through, then there was trouble getting the performing rights and a new cast, but their tenacity has paid off and now this funny play has been brought to the stage for your appreciation. After 40 years the humour is showing a little age, but the cast members have done a great job getting as much humour as possible from every situation.

This Harbour Theatre Production can be seen at the Camelot Theatre, 16 Lochee Street in Mosman Park. The 2-hour performances are for one week only; on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7.30 until Saturday 27th February. There are matinees on both Saturday and Sunday at 2.00 pm.

The set is stunning, with plenty of plants and foliage. One side of the stage shows the limestone walls of the house, with a terracotta tiled patio. It is furnished with garden furniture and a sideboard (Grace Hitchin, Lesley Sutton). The other side is an amazing garden scene, with trelliswork, and completed with a most impressive tree (Rob Downie and Theme-it) in the centre of the lawn. The fine artwork was by Melissa Bassett. Exceptional.

The large set construction team was co-ordinated by Rob Tagliaferri, who also operated the lighting. The sound designer and tech was Vanessa Gudgeon.

      Lifetime bachelor, Sir Cecil Warburton (Ray Egan) who has made an immense amount of money from his writing, went on to build a mansion next to the beech tree where he met the love of his life, and they first saw the kingfisher.

      One morning, as his long-time serving butler, Hawkins (Alan Morris) is laying the breakfast table on the courtyard; Cecil notices in the paper that Reggie Townsend has died. Reggie was the bounder that stole Sir Cecil’s girlfriend decades earlier.

      With all of the subtly of a long-term bachelor, Cecil asks Reggie’s widow, Evelyn (Ann Speicher) to ‘pop in’ on the way home from the funeral.

      What can this millionaire be up to? Surely not rekindling his love. Could there even be two muted love affairs?

The script was little wordy, but dialogue is perfectly executed – although with a few hesitations due to the extremely short rehearsal (about 30% of most rehearsal times) before the show opened.

The highly experienced directors, Nicola Bond and Tina Barker – having quite a few plays as actors under their belt – have gathered a top notch cast and conquered all of the previous weeks’ traumatic happenings.

There were quite a few funny moments, with the climax being the ‘snuggle’ on a rug on the lawn. I sat shaking my head, in total empathy with their movements.

February is usually a stressful month, with a full moon last night and everyone going crazy; a madcap comedy was just what the doctor ordered.