SAY WHO YOU ARE
by Willis Hall & Keith Waterhouse
Director: Gary Woodhall
Altrincham Little Theatre
This was a superb play with which to finish this season. It is a play about marriage, infidelity and relationships. To set this play in the 1960s was an inspired choice. It was a time when ‘phone boxes and landlines were very much in use’ and this allowed time between conversations and reactions between the characters. In today’s society, with the use of mobile phones, one would expect things to be quicker and more immediate. It was also a time that, whether rightly or wrongly, was dubbed, ‘the permissive society’ where the quite strict moral code of marriage and relationships in previous decades was thought to be more relaxed.
Alex Clarke played a husband with a teenage mistress, a fact which understandably annoys his wife, played by Jane Newman. While we are all aghast at the thought, we later find out that they have only shared meals and holding hands, until now. The wife decides to enjoy a little perverse pleasure by allowing her friend (Bev Stuart-Cole) occasionally to use the flat and nuptial bed for a liaison with a married man (Mark Edgar). The bed is free on Friday evenings and, in a sense, she is supporting and indulging in adultery by proxy, which smacks of double standards on her part.
I totally agree with the director, Gary Woodhall, who writes in the programme that putting on any play involves a team effort. This small cast of four (as we never see the referred to, Maxine, a teenage petrol attendant who is the object of the character David’s attentions) had to learn the lines, moves and timing of entrances and exits. I must say that they did this with total professionalism. All four of them concentrated and focused on their part and their interaction with others without being distracted by other characters walking past or at the side of them. It would have been so easy to let their eyes wander to other interactions and movements.
All four of these actors gave equally strong performances. Alex Clarke, as the adulterous husband, who hasn’t done anything too series yet, was great as the frustrated and manipulated husband. We almost felt sorry for him until we realised he was having an affair, and that his wife knows. Jane Newman, as his wife, Sarah, relished the opportunity to be the “bitch” and start arguments with him whenever she wanted to be spiteful, or to get her own way.
The double standard is that she is aiding another man in his adulterous relationship with her friend, while her own husband is innocent. Mark Edgar, as Stuart, the one person who is married and having an affair, enjoyed the farce as he came to the conclusion that he would leave his wife after all and move in with his lover, only for him to be duped, as Valerie, the typical 1960s blonde bombshell, played by Bev Stuart- Cole, only wants a bit of fun once a week.
While this isn’t exactly a rip-roaring comedy, there are situations, and dialogue that is funny. The audience spent quite a bit of the first act getting to grips with the plot and working out who is having the affairs, and the relationships between the characters. However, during the second act, there were laugh-out-loud moments as the lives of the four characters are unpicked, and the story line moves to a conclusion.
The set design and construction team, led by Polina Sparks and Alan Reidsma, need their own round of applause. For this play to work effectively there needs to be very little pause in action and dialogue, and the set that we got was one that had four completely separate acting areas: a pub, the flat, a lobby with stairs and a lift, and, a specially built, red telephone box standing proud of the proscenium arch. I totally agree with the director that they did “a sterling job.”
Steve Smith creating the sound effects was very, as the modern saying goes, “on point”: the telephone rings, the lift working and the snatches of song that gave the clue that this play has been set in the 1960s. This was the era that people refer to as the permissive society and the play’s theme of affairs and adultery were to reflect this time. Not only did the music give a nod to this period but so did the costumes, especially those for Sarah and Valerie.
Gary Woodall must be very proud of what he, the actors, and the members of the society achieved in the final play of the season.
I thank you all for your hospitality and look forward to watching the forthcoming productions beginning in September.