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May 2013

Double Bill...

Happy Birthday Me by Simon Williams
The Witches of Prestwick by Joe Graham

By Jon Marino - Friday, May 24th, 2013
(reproduced by kind permission of
the Isle of Wight County Press)

THERE could not have been a greater contrast between the double header of short plays served up by Cowes Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.

The presentation of Happy Birthday, Me and The Witches of Prestwick truly was a show of two halves.

Whereas Birthday in the first half was ludicrously unfunny in the main and excruciatingly dull, Witches was a joy to watch and revived my waning interest in the show.

The skill of the actors could not hide just how tepid and boring Simon Williams’s play was.

It centred on retired actress Margot Buchanan, who, on her birthday at a residential home, received unwanted visits from her ex-husband, Sir Leo, an ageing film star, his wife, Lady Buchanan, and his mistress, Sadie Croft, an aspiring Juliet, who sought Margot’s advice on the role.

The main body of the play centred on vain Margot, played soundly by Carolyn Ferguson, and her inter-relationships with the other characters, which meandered on without any spark — a shame with such a talented cast.

It may have looked good on paper when a Superman birthday kissogram arrived as Sir Leo suffered a fatal heart attack, but not even that was deserving of more than a passing snigger at best. It just didn’t work.

However, all was not lost for the opening night audience of 20, in the shape of Witches.

The Trinity Theatre stage suddenly became a cauldron of laughter as three women, practising for their roles as witches in Macbeth, tried to summon up 'the perfect man’ by dabbling in magic spells — to humorous effect.

Maria Wilkinson, as Bev, Fiona Gwinnett, as Jan, and Becky Giakoumelos, as Lou, were vibrant and the comic chemistry between them was wonderful.

When they unwittingly summoned a door-to-door vacuum salesman they believed was Satan, superbly played by Peter Stockman, out came the devilishly funny Carry On-style double-entendres.

Just when you thought their assumptions had been misplaced, Stockman evoked the biggest belly laughs with his red-eyed finale.