25 November 2011

The Unrest Cure at Pentameters

I came to this by a circuitous route.

A Space Rock contact told me about a Robert Calvert play that was being performed at Pentameters, a small theatre in Hampstead unknown to me at the time.

Sadly I was unable to go but being very interested in small theatres that are unknown to me I kept an eye on what else they were doing.

When I saw The Unrest Cure announced the clincher was that it was set in Chickerell, West Dorset. This is where I went to secondary school and having lived in Weymouth for around 25 years it's a part of the country that I know very well.

I later discovered that one of the plays co-authors, Rob Groves, went to the same school and while we never met there he does remember my Dad who taught him Geography at some point.

The scene set, I headed for Hampstead for the very first time. It's quaint and hilly but I fail to see what all the fuss is about. Give me loft living by a dock any day.

The theatre is above The Horseshoe, an absolutely typical gastro pub with high-end prices. A nice enough place to savour some cauliflower soup and a beer before the show.

The entrance to the theatre is from the side of the pub and is through an impressive doorway with Pentameters above it. Things take a turn towards student accommodation after that as you climb a narrow wooden staircase up to a cluttered landing and enter the small room via the ticket booth.

There before you is a period reception room assembled on a slightly raised stage. It is free seating and I was early enough to get the usual front-row seat.

The play is a light whimsical tale of an middle-aged brother and sister who have settled too early in to their ways running a hotel.

A chance overheard conversation on a train suggests to an younger upper-class brother and sister that they should provide the hotel owners with an unrest cure to add some excitement to their lives.

The unrest comes from acting the part of royal aides and claiming the the Prince of Wales (who is the area opening a new power station) will be staying at the hotel for the night. The PoW also has some unusual demands such as no meat on the premises, no cats and no Cornish people.

The young couple's plans to scarper before the anticipated arrival of the PoW are thrown in to disarray by the unexpected arrival of somebody else, pandemonium follows and is followed by a happy ending.

The Unrest Cure is a delightful comedy of characters and circumstances. The plot is believable, simple and twists nicely. The characters are bold and bright, from the overwhelmed hotel proprietor to the lordly Lord Abbotsbury, and all the cast play their parts well in bring the diverse characters to life.

The story is a treat with gems like the disposal of the cat and rose-petal dance to greet the PoW's arrival.The dialogue delivers a steady stream of gentle mirth punctured with plenty of laugh out loud moments, such as the announcement by Lord Abbotsbury that he much prefers the works of Wodehouse to (local hero) Thomas Hardy because Wodehouse writes about real people, "people like us".

The Unrest Cure is marvellously entertaining and is a heartening example of what smaller theatres can do with unfamiliar writers and actors. A joy to watch.

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