Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Don’t Just Lie There – Say Something!

Gold Coast Little Theatre

Friday 16th November, 2013


I can remember the early 1970s. I was a young boy in purple flared trousers and a horizontally striped polo-necked jumper … clearly a fashion plate even back then. In the entertainment scene, the free-loving 60s had given way to the sexual ambiguity and innuendo of the 70s. The youth of the Western World were out en mass protesting any involvement in the Vietnam War and comedy writers in smoky studies were turning to their typewriters in a bid to lighten the mood. In the UK, the Carry On team took bawdy Music Hall humour to the big screen and Benny Hill was mastering the art of the double-entendre whilst unashamedly flirting with big-breasted, voiceless girls in his weekly sketch comedy show.

In 1971 that was all terribly risqué – cheeky and, dare I say, “titivating!” “I’m not against half-naked girls …” Hill would say “… not as often as I’d like to be!” At the same time, Dr Who’s brother, Michael Pertwee was penning one of his more than 60 television, film and theatrical scripts – described as a “Whitehall Farce” and entitled Don’t Just Lie There – Say Something! Again, I have little doubt that the steamy nocturnal shenanigans of bowler hat wearing MPs and their lingerie-clad mistresses was all very daring, salacious and terribly amusing to the British middle-class. However now, some 40 years on, I wonder … is it still?

David Edwards, Maria Buckler & Eric James

Opening this week at the Gold Coast Little Theatre, “Don’t Just Lie There …” is certainly energetic and well staged … albeit just a bit dated and, at times, a little unamusing. However it is an interesting look back to that time in our recent history … a time, as they say “when sex was safe and parachuting was dangerous!”

Occasionally laborious scripting aside, the cast work jolly hard both remembering the reams of dialogue and with the quite physical blocking that is common in such a play. Eric James plays the fraternising Sir William Mainwaring-Brown (or “Mannering Brown” according to the program). A self-confessed “old fool”, this part seems to suit Mr James to a tee and he clearly enjoys the nightly frolic with semi-dressed ladies (and one slightly less attractive, hand painted gentleman in a pillow slip). That unfortunate character is David Edwards as the full-time MP and occasional hippie rebel, Barry Ovis. Again, Mr Edwards enjoys little respite through the performance and plays his embattled MP with an enjoyable realism.

Maria Buckler (baring an uncanny resemblance to the delightful Joanna Lumley who played the role in the 1973 film adaptation) and Clare Ryan, are the brave girls in the scanties and despite spending much of the evening shut in a broom closet, Brian Wilson is quite hilarious as the somewhat forgetful but Right Honourable Wilfred Potts MP (or Potty to his friends). Bruce Alker Jr, as the typical bumbling detective, struggles occasionally with his dialogue (and the accent) but is otherwise enjoyably frustrated in the role. Ruth Henderson is pitifully convincing as the ever-suffering fiancé, Jean Fenton and Grace Lennox (as, wait for it, Miss Damina) is in and out from under the bed like a sales-rep’s suitcase.

Director Dorothy Henderson’s long history of comedy comes to the fore in this production and while, as I said, I’m not convinced that it’s a terribly funny book, she manages to elicit numerous laughs from her audience (and probably sighs of physical exhaustion from her hard-working cast) as the wordy set-up of the first act allows for more slapstick and becomes more visually amusing in the second. The stage design, by Ted Henderson is ideal and offers all manner of entrances and exits, as one might expect in a farce. The period 70s wallpaper is thoroughly hideous … and absolutely perfect!

One must remind one’s self from time to time that this is actually community theatre. These actors / stage crew and technicians all have other jobs … they remember this dialogue and rehearse these intricate scenes in their spare time. What’s more, they don’t get paid for it - so more credit to them!

Glenn T.

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