The Darling Buds of May

The Darling Buds of May  – Review

Take a reasonably well-known story, set 60 years ago in rural Kent, England, and people it with eccentric yokels, and you have the makings of an engaging comedy. The Larkin family apparently have a legitimate business, farming, but it brings in an amazing if undeclared income, thanks to the machinations of the adult members. Pop, played here by Dave Mortimer in a stand-out performance as a shifty yet open entrepreneur, is ably assisted by the equally amoral Ma, played delightfully by Annette Farr, but the story-line centres on eldest daughter Mariette, the lovely Isabella Wilkie, falling in love with the oh-so-earnest ‘Charley’ the tax investigator, played by Alec Muir. Their roles enliven the play, starting with mere flirtation on the part of Mariette, through a fight with a rival, Pauline Jackson (Molly Callaghan), a scheme to have a baby, then to set up house to make everything ‘perfick’. The main characters, ably assisted by the young Larkin siblings (April Manson, Trey Cosgrove, Maddison Frame, Ruby Ballantyne, Lucy Flynn), also have interactions with village identities, including Jon Harris as the brigadier, Shelley Casey as the amorous Miss Pilchester , Lizzie Dawson as Angela Snow, the Bluff-Gore couple (Jeff Mill, Angela O’Reilly) and Mark Richardson as the befuddled tax inspector.

Director Gail Tatham relies upon a minimal set, loads of miming, and excellent sound and lighting effects; the costuming of the 1950s is spot-on, the characters move and position themselves (especially the children), and all in all the TV show known to so many comes alive again in this very good production. Congratulations , then, to all involved in this sparkling comedy. It is a treat, well deserving of our support.

– Gordon Prowse

Variety A Kiwi Comedy

Variety, a Kiwi Comedy is certainly a unique musical, and the Mill Theatre section of the South Canterbury Drama League is to be congratulated for putting on such a rollicking show. Written and directed by Catherine May Smith, this pre-Christmas production has an eclectic atmosphere – there’s almost a feel for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, plus slapstick and vaudeville. Ms Smith has obviously trained her cast and backstage to make this a fast-moving and highly colourful comedy. The plot is whimsical, with two competing prima donnas in a quasi-political local milieu creating the sparks to generate the song and dance routines that enliven the stage.

And here is the flair of Matt Deavoll, as music director. To have a dozen actors belting out such numbers as Poi-e, Hit me with your best shot, and I see red, is quite an accomplishment, particularly when tight choreography is involved too; the resultant items come with good volume, clear enunciation, and relentless movement. Stealing the performance are Molly Callanan as ambitious Moira, and Ben Donaldson as the sultry Shirly Templesmith; each has a commanding stage presence and voice, and their acolytes reinforce their dominance. Yet the supposedly lesser characters have their own important parts to play –Stevie Gallagher, Bethany Cootes, Miranda Burrell and Victoria Chappell give lustre to Ben, their lord and master, while Vanessa Fleming, Annette Farr, Viv Leslie, and Maree Casey similarly endow Molly’s status. Andrew Robb as Moira’s partner grows in stature, and Nathan Butler is once again a real trouper, set against Shirly.

The ensemble is exceptionally well costumed, and the wide stage setting, with multiple doors and clever lighting, gives them all scope to display their talents. An appreciative opening-night audience, with whom there was occasional interplay, roundly applauded the efforts of Ms Smith’s work. This is a light-hearted comedy, suited to all, and fully deserving Timaru support.
– Gordon Prowse, reviewer

The Amorous Ambassador

The Amorous Ambassador, from the pen of playwright Michael Parker, has all the aspects of pure farce where the pace and the slap-stick-over-the-top situations, well rounded and possibly improbable, will give an audience a fun night out.
Smooth talking Harry Douglas – recently appointed American Ambassador to Britain is off for a golfing weekend in Scotland – or so he claims. Instead he returns for a fantasy time dressed as Tarzan and not alone. Unknown to him his daughter takes advantage of the empty house to invite her boyfriend, Joe, for the weekend. Add a bomb scare which brings in Captain South, Head of Embassy Security, a lock down, plus a secretary, obviously not chosen for her secretarial skills, and combine this with the hapless Joe, forced into female attire for most of the play, then for fun bring back the wife – a wife about to reveal all. All of the above is stoically observed by Perkins, a fine example of the best of the best of British butlers …….. or is he? As an added bonus, the doom that surrounds the characters makes the finale for this play one of the best the group has read in a long time. As with the last play – worth another look.

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