Posts Tagged ‘Michael Simkins’

It’s always good to see theatre tackling current issues, and it’s particularly good to see the Chichester theatres, home of musicals, revivals and ‘safe’ new plays, doing so; particularly as Fracking is also a local issue. On the whole, this was successful in presenting all sides of the arguments and does so entertainingly, though it comes off the fence in the end.

Deerland Energy is applying for a fracking permit, aided by a PR firm with some dubious methods. The local council appear to be about to cave in, but they haven’t accounted for the unlikely opposition of retired professor-turned-campaigner Elizabeth, who starts by outing a university professor in the pay of oil companies and continues by turning the planning chair’s sister against him by pointing out the chaos it would unleash on her quiet neighbourhood. She’s seen by the activists as a trump card and becomes so passionate she follows the path from campaigner to activist herself. Odious PR man Joe digs into his dirty tricks bag and the planning chair wavers.

It’s a satire and it’s often very funny. It’s very up-to-date, with some lines bringing the house down with their acid response to very recent events. That said, it does cover a reasonable amount of ground when it comes to scientific background and different perspectives. The environmental consequences are covered, but so are the NIMBY attitudes of the local hypocrites driving gas-guzzling cars. The endless switching from short scenes in Elizabeth’s home to the PR office and back, where most of the play takes place, became a bit irritating, but Richard Wilson’s production is otherwise well paced, and it held my attention throughout.

As always, Anne Reid is a pleasure to watch, and this is a very different role for her, one which she appears to relish. James Bolam is excellent as her put-upon husband who doesn’t share her passion and resents its intrusion into his quiet retirement. Oliver Chris is well cast as the PR man you love to hate, a real modern day baddie. Michael Simkins makes the energy company CEO sympathetic, at least initially, which helps give the play balance. They are well supported by nine other actors in multiple roles.

Following mediocre reviews, this exceeded my expectations again and, paired with Half a Sixpence, made for a great day out in Sussex!


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A gold star to Jermyn Street Theatre for kicking off Rattigan’s centenary year with the world premiere of the original version of a play which in any version is rarely staged. One might have thought he re-wrote it to placate the censors, given themes that would have shocked then if not now, but apparently he re-wrote it to accommodate the wishes of the star actors to whom it was offered.

Sir John Fletcher (excellently played by Michael Simkins), an industrialist given a position in the war cabinet, is estranged from his wife and has moved his lover in to the family home. Her teenage son, evacuated to Canada, returns home and jeopardises their relationship. There is a political dimension to the clash between the son and the minister (leftie meets reactionary) which provides another layer to the drama. There’s a nod to Hamlet, a number of issues discussed, and more witty lines than you might expect.

It’s not a great play, but it’s an interesting one and it’s given a decent production in this tiny space. Sara Crowe is a little too dippy as the lover at the outset but soon settles into the role, David Osmond seemed a bit sweet as the role of Michael hardened, but Caroline Head was spot on as the wife. Suzi Lombardelli’s design makes good use of the performing area.

This theatre really does need to put some sort of stage or platform to raise the performing area above its current floor level. There are only five rows of seats, but from the fifth row you see none of the performing area and when actors sit, not a lot of them either!

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