Technical Crew Details:
Assistant Stage Manager
Peter Tyerman, Mike Briggs
Tony Watson, Roger Keightley, Gina Martin
Reviewed by C.- A.R. For The Croydon Advertiser,
Friday May 5th 1972
Not Quite Plausible
Mary Hayley Bell’s “Duet for Two Hands” seemed an ungrateful choice of play for Theatre Workshop Coulsdon’s latest production directed by Chris Argles.
For a start, its highly implausible plot needs super-smooth handling if it is going to evoke any response other than embarrassment. Additionally it lays a number of mechanical traps which may prove dangerous for the unwary amateur, for example the piano-playing episode which on Saturday was marred by the foibles of the tape-recorder.
The largest problem is obviously the one of sustaining a credible Scots accent throughout. All five Theatre Workshop players started with – to Sassenach ears, at any rate – authentic intonation, but only Stephen Swinscoe as Edward Sarclet kept it going to the end.
On the whole the latter character was the most convincingly portrayed, partly because of Stephen Swinscoe’s sonorous and rolling accent and also because he was not afraid to make the terrors and rages of the conceited surgeon come to life. However, like the other players, he relied too much on the prompt at moments of dramatic tension, and in Act II, scene i, he failed to project Sarclet’s inebriation with enough loss of physical and vocal control.
Mark Langston looked the part of the priggish poet Stephen Cass, but his acting was rushed and lightweight. Stephen Cass came across to some extent as an embarrassed and pretentious young man, but his claims to profounder emotions and insights were hardly substantiated. Slower enunciation would have helped at times to give conviction to this character, whose patent falseness is the fault of the playwright, and who requires first-class playing as a result.
In general the dialogue throughout the play moved too quickly. The players seemed reluctant to give time for the full emotional impact of a statement or event to register with each other. Despite this, Rosemary Smyter’s Abigail and Fay Smith’s Herda Sarclet were capable portrayals whose temperamental differences were neatly underscored, and Diana Hewitt’s Fletty was a well-drawn miniature.
The climax of the play was its weakest moment; skill of the highest order is needed to raise such melodrama above the level of farce. Even so Edward Sarclet, recovering his seriousness simulated collapse in convincing style; Abigail also had fainted rather well on an earlier occasion.
The set was cosy and atmospheric, though I should have preferred a touch of distant landscape (of which much mention is made in the dialogue) to the flat blue which prevailed in the window square.