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March 2015

Double Bill
- Banged Up! by Steve Manley
- Who Calls? by David Campton

By Matthew McKew - Friday March 27th, 2015
(reproduced by kind permission of
the Isle of Wight County Press)

COWES Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (CAODS) invited Islanders to watch two shows put on by debutante directors at Trinity Theatre, Cowes.

First on the bill was Banged Up, written by Islander Steve Manley and directed by Emma Shelley.

The production sees three prisoners taking English lessons and learning to express themselves through drama.

As the prisoners grapple with their feelings and poor education, their teacher breaks down, revealing life on the outside is not easy either.

This was full of good individual performances and kept the audience laughing.

Martin Woolvern, Grant Farley and David Stradling all passed for convincing cons but what disappointed me was how they came

This needed more lingering pause to add tension.

When these convicts squared up against each other, the anger seemed to dissipate all too easily. Yes, this was predominantly a comedy but we weren't asked to imagine petty thieves, we were asked to envisage murderers and professional burglars.

The teacher, played by Steve Kimpton, was too much like Mr Barrowclough from Porridge.

The ending, however, was a particular highlight, with the cast drawing the audience in for a high octane finish that was pulled off well.

The minimalist setting was perfect for the subject matter. It can be all too tempting to cram a stage full of props, but the bare minimum helped reflect the emptiness of the characters' lives.

The second show, Who Calls? was written by David Campton and directed by Carolyn Ferguson.

We were introduced to four servants describing their dead mistress and contemplating their future.

In the unfolding drama, we see the servants breaking the boundaries of a hierarchy that has clearly restricted them until now.

This most Victorian dilemma is made even more pertinent when the service bell rings from the dead woman's bedroom.

The characters then have to decide between rational thought and spiritual fear.

What sprung to mind during this performance was advice given by an adjudicator at this year's IW Music, Dance and Drama Festival.

"Don't act, be."

Sometimes I thought it was to just a little too clear people were acting, rather than living out these weird and unnerving events.

This was perhaps why, when Joan Savill's character suffered a heart attack, the audience laughed at what seemed to be the height of the drama .. I may have misunderstood, but I thought the play was predominantly a drama, mixed with a splash of well-timed comedy from the cook, played by Carole Crow.

Having said all this, Victoria Pitt did well as Twilley, injecting emotion into the piece.

My biggest problem with this play was the prompt. The cast was a doing a good job of keeping the flow going, when an actress stumbled slightly on her lines and immediately the magic disappeared as a lone voice from side of the stage called out the line.

Both plays had decent first nights but the remaining performances tonight (Friday)and tomorrow, need to feel more real.