22 September 2016

Lots of laughs with The Roundabout at Park Theatre

My only problem with Park Theatre is that they built it in the wrong place. It lives next to Finsbury Park in north-east London while I live and work in south-west London. Luckily there are plenty of trains to take me into Vauxhall where the Victoria Line can whisk me through London. The journey is about an hour door-to-door, which is fine.

One reason for loving Park Theatre is the front of house facilities and atmosphere. This time I started with an excellent mushroom quiche and salad accompanied by a bottle of decent Chelsea Blonde. I also made use of the free wifi to do a little bit of tweeting. The Park Theatre has everything I need.

The Roundabout was almost a speculative choice of plays to see. My main reason for seeing it was simply because I had not been to Park Theatre for a while and this looked like a good enough reason to go, It was written by Northern Legend J.B. Priestley which helped despite me not being a major fan of his, I saw this as a chance to learn more about him and perhaps to change my mind. The final reason for seeing it was that the cast included Benidorm Legend Hugh Sachs who I had last seen on stage in Anything Goes at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

The decision made, I helped myself to seat A3 for a derisory £20 plus my usual small donation.

The story was set in the familiar territory of a reception room in a large country house. Here we met the master of the house and struggling financier, Lord Kettlewell, and his idle friend of many years Churton (Chuffy) Saunders. There were, of course, a butler and a maid on hand and also there was a young artist composing designs for the dining room. Expected to add to this group was the Lord's colleague who was on his way, at the weekend, to try and help with the financial problems.

And that was just the beginning, four other people also arrived all either unexpectedly or at short notice and each brought further confusion to the household and more comedy to the situation. This was especially true of Lord Kettlewell's daughter, Pamela (pictured above), who was played admirably by Bessie Carter in her first professional role. Pamela soon had everybody else playing to her tune and steered the story towards its satisfying conclusion.

With a cast of eleven there were plenty of character types and their interactions for Priestly to play with and he did so adroitly producing a steady stream of smiles, giggles and laughs. The woman directly opposite he had a very broad grin on her face all the way through and I suspect that I did too.

The Roundabout was never going to challenge the intellect, and nor was it trying to. What it did do was entertain mightily with a story that skipped and jumped in different directions, a cast of interesting characters all played with conviction and panache, and some crisp dialogue to mesh everything together. It was delightful.

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