Technical Crew Details:
Reviewed by S.H. For The Croydon Advertiser, Friday 21st July 1972
Darkness and Light
Two plays – Peter Shaffer’s “Black Comedy” and Roger Keightley’s “No Way Out” – made up Theatre Workshop Coulsdon’s double bill on Saturday evening.
Both start from a “lights out” situation, but while one explores the comic potential, the other has more tragic consequences.
“No Way Out” was written by Roger Keightley, a member of TWC, who also directed the play and acted in it.
The situation is of a party murder game which becomes horrifyingly real. Or does it? – For the end of the play returns to the beginning and one feels that the whole thing will start all over again. Throughout, it seemed that the question was “Who killed Rena?” But after the unexpected ending, which still leaves me somewhat mystified, it would seem that the more basic question at the root of the play is “What is reality?”
Though the intellectual content of a play may be complex and elusive, the author still has to give the actors sufficient material to work on, and I didn’t think that here there was enough. There was plenty of good potential, but it wasn’t developed. Too many lines of direction were started but not carried through. Why, for instance, the ominous hinting about Greg’s terrible secret if it is neither going to be exposed nor used?
I think there is material here for a longer and fuller play. If the reality of a situation is to be questioned, it must first be built up to seem convincing, and this play did not allow time for that.
There were good attempts from the whole cast to grasp the situation, but there could be far more for them to grasp.
“Black Comedy” starts with the stage in darkness, and it is not until the lights fuse in the plot of the play that the actual stage lights come on.
From here we watch the stumbling efforts of the characters as they attempt to find their way around the room and through a series of increasingly complicated situations. So in a sense the audience is in a voyeur situation, watching the actions of people who are unaware of being watched.
For this illusion to work, it is essential that the actors play the actions of their characters absolutely sincerely. In this production I felt that there was a sense of self-consciousness from most of the cast. They seemed too aware that what they were doing was funny, as indeed it was, but it would have been more so had they been absolutely serious about it.
The only member of the cast to play all her actions with serious and sincere motivations was Rosemary Quin as the debutante Carol, and as a result hers was a performance well worth watching. One saw not only the funny side of her plight but also its more serious consequences.
Apart from this performance, the more tragic side was missing from this production.
Keith Walton as Colonel Melkett and Gina Martin as Miss Furnival came near to emulating Rosemary Quin’s performance, but momentary lapses into self-consciousness tended to let them down. However, a lot of thought had clearly gone into these performances.
Chris Argles as Brindsley Miller, Steve Swinscoe as Harold Corrigne and Sue Pinkstone as Cleo gave technically good performances; in particular the section where Brindsley had to change over the furniture was hilarious. However, I did get the feeling with all three that they were playing to the audience, and they came dangerously near to “corpsing” (i.e. laughing) several times.