Made in Colchester
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Wednesday 15th May 2013
The third choice from Alan Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges series brought energetically to life under Robin Herford's direction as part of the Mercury's Made in Colchester season. Each play stands alone, but as we get further into the series we begin to see in-jokes and character traits that enhance the comedy, which in true Ayckbourn style explores both the tragic and ridiculous elements of human situations.
In this show, we discover more of the delightful Sylvie, as we see her mature and blossom into a confident young woman. As she seeks assistance from the spiritless Mr Teasdale to improve her learning, he is charmed by her energy and vitality and casts her as their emergency Queen of the Iceni in the local pageant. With Lionel in charge of building the stage, and Mrs Teasdale also assuming the lead role in the pageant, much hilarity ensues.
Some well timed performances here, as both actors must stage an unseen fight between two of the characters they portray. Ruth Gibson is wonderful as the sparkling Sylvie, who has been somewhat secondary in the two other productions to date, but takes centre stage here. A fun and funny characterisation, especially during the garden scene in act one, when Lionel attempts to teach her to hold herself like a lady. Gwynfor Jones is also excellent as both Lionel, the suitor, and Toby, the teacher. These characters, along with Ruth Gibson's Celia, have featured heavily in the series thus far, and with defined and well executed direction the regular audience members can begin to anticipate the character's responses to the various comedic situations.
As promised, seeing each of the productions from this linked series of plays does add another level of enjoyment. Regular characters, who you get to know and understand more over time, is an unusual scenario in the theatre that can more often be found in television. However, you can still pick up any of these productions independently and enjoy a very entertaining evening, thanks in no small part to the excellent pair of hard working actors, a splendid set and intelligent, well pitched direction.
I must also mention that The Mercury's Front of House staff were particularly attentive and accommodating during this captioned performance, providing excellent facilities for those who struggle to hear the show. The captioning screens are positioned discreetly enough to not distract those who do not require them, but also very clearly for those who do. A well organised service, making this excellent local theatre accessible for those who may otherwise struggle to enjoy live entertainment.