The Fishes; Mrs. Canary
The Fishes; Mr. Canary; The Head Jumbly
The Fishes; Bird
The Dong with a Luminous Nose
The Quangle Wangle
The Plum Pudding Flea
The Runcible Spoon
The Jumbly Girl
The Pig; The Turkey
Diana Hewitt and Joan Stanyard
Technical Crew Details:
Rosemary Smyter and Tessa Young
Reviewed by J.D.R. For The Croydon Advertiser, Friday 15th 1972
Total Collapse of the Bong Tree
The brightness of a Christmas entertainment can stem from an enthusiastic desire to entertain, or from a wholehearted involvement of actors, and hence of audience, in the unfolding of a tale, or from both.
Children can be admirable audiences, eager to enjoy themselves and ready to believe in fantastical tales.
Theatre Workshop Coulsdon can display imagination and zeal in experimental forms of theatre, yet their current production of “The Owl And The Pussycat Went To See…”, to receive its final performance tomorrow evening, shows only their lack of adequate stagecraft and how totally inhibited they seem when confronted with a more conventional form of play on a traditional proscenium stage.
The youngsters with me had enjoyed Edward Lear’s poems of the strange inhabitants of the Land Where the Bong Tree Grows – the Jumblies, the Dong, the Quangle Wangle, and even the fearsome Plum Pudding Flea. There was unfortunately no fun, pathos or excitement here in T.W.C’s slow, laboured and rather drab show, where the Bong Tree collapsed in scene and it was never seen again.
Optimistically the eight year old at my side waited till two-thirds through the show before remarking “I don’t like this, it’s not very good.”
All were affected by the apparent lack of enthusiasm, the incompetence and most especially the slow pace, which made quite simple set-pieces of action lose all credibility or sense of surprise. Only when miming the crossing of hazards on the Hills of the Chankly Bore and the Great Gromboolian Plain did a sense of group movement and action link itself with a sense of character.
All the actors had the basis of good individual characterisation, and in a taut, well thought out, better projected production, there might have been some affectionately memorable performances, especially the verbose Quangle Wangle played with some panache by Stephen Swinscoe, Simon Blackburn’s doleful Dong, and Lesley Quin’s diffident, spinsterly Runcible Spoon.
Some small sparks of enthusiasm did come across in the manic glee of Diana Hewett and Joan Stanyard as the Jumblies, those “idiotic creatures of little brain,” and in the throatily villainous Plum Pudding Flea, played by Rob Barnes-Watts, garbed voluminously in red and displaying a pair of incredibly elegant legs as he jumped around the stage.
Chris Argles and Rosemary Quin, usually well able to project some theatrical sense, quite lost this behind masks and make-up as the Owl and the Pussycat, the latter having a regrettable impression of a scowl.
No attempt was made to integrate the songs into the action. Some singers were quite inaudible over the piano accompaniment; all seemed to stand half-heartedly swaying, uncertain whether to direct their singing to the audience or to each other. With a competent musical director, the songs might have provided refreshing interludes in the play.
Perhaps if Keith Walton had not tried to act as well as produce, he might have handled the whole production more objectively and realised how little was communicated out to the audience.