Photos Reviews

The Odd Couple

November 2008

by Neil Simon - directed by Avril Pattinson


Olive Madison - Chris Eilbeck

Florence Unger - Victoria Jones

Renee - Jacquie Howatson

Mickey - Maggie Butt

Sylvie - Clare Rowland

Vera - Rose Gander

Manolo Costazuela - Bill Pattinson

Jesus Costazuela - Howard Eilbeck

Production Team:

Director - Avril Pattinson

Production Manager - Chris Williams

Stage Manager - Freddie Jacobs

Props/Stage Crew - Jill Cree, Lesley Trist & Cally Petit

Lighting/Sound - Peter Tapp & Alan Caig

Set Design - Phil Keen

Costume - Isla Morgan

Set Construction - Anthony Morris & Company

Publicity - Maggie Butt, Rose Gander & Angela Wallwork

Front of House - Maggie Butt & Sharon Wannell

Programme - Alan Caig


From Estuary News:

From the start this Estuary Players production works...

It's possible that Neil Simon knew of that prayer attributed to St Francis... and when he wrote The Odd Couple he transposed it thus: 'Where there is harmony, may I bring discord. Where there is love, let me sow hatred'. More likely, he was just observing the universal dramatic truth: that bland is boring and animus animates. And that risks the cruel mockery of human weakness and the feeling of voyeurism for the audience when deeper emotions are exposed on the stage.

The setting of The Odd Couple is a New York apartment, home of divorcee Olive. The key to the plot is that as well as being warm-hearted, easy-going, and a soft touch for her ex, Olive is very challenged domestically. She holds weekly Trivial Pursuit parties for a bunch of dames who enjoy the opportunity to be competitive without the upsetting presence of males - not that Olive would personally object to a fella on the radar. This partying sets up the situation, perhaps a bit slowly, but it's also a vehicle for the playwright's abundant humour. So Olive, Renee, Mickey, Sylvie and Vera squabble and quip and deliver personal judgements at an easy pace. Into this scene pitches Flo, disillusioned, distressed and depressed at being ditched by a guy who, from her description of him, she was dumb even to date a second time, much less marry.

So big hearted and slovenly Olive gives Flo a refuge. At once the latter's home-making skills rise to the opportunity - she's Delia and Kim and Aggie all in one. And so, as her growing assertiveness, obsessive tidiness and hygienic imperative impose a new regimen in the apartment, we see the resentments become enlarged and entrenched between the protagonists. A major crisis emerges when Flo's meticulous preparations for dinner, to which two Spaniards from a neighbouring flat have been invited, are undermined and ruined by Olive's casual, sloppy behaviour.

From the start this Estuary Players production works. The actors, daringly going the whole hog on American accent, keep up a good tempo in the repartee. Few lines miss out in clarity and the timing, critical in this kind of dialogue, is almost always spot on.

Individualities amongst the four Pursuitists emerge nicely, with the sardonic, worldly humour of the NYPD being knowingly delivered in the flat style of the Bronx and emphasising the chorus role which the quartet fulfil.

Chris Eilbeck in the role of Olive comfortably accommodates the kindness, vulnerability, yearning and, as provocation mounts, the outrage which usually lies dormant. That is perhaps to caricature a more subtly written and played role which is, in dramatic terms, the foil to that fanatical domestic paragon, the stressful and stressed Florence. As this driven woman, Victoria Jones' performance is something of a tour de force. Working rapidly through a variety of household tasks she combines all this business with her end of the sustained, sharp and often emotional dialogue - and an American accent.

Into this arena the author has thrown a braith of brothers from Barthelona. What is it with that city that it's such a source of humour? Actually, they breeze con brio into Olive's living room, and there's an amusing four-handed session milking the pronunthiation of the Spanish language. I gather from one of Topsham's resident Iberians that Manolo and Jesus scored high on this; they certainly did in the energy and entertainment brought to the roles by the acting.

Around all the action was a stage set that had the right feel, though in terms of audience sight-lines the main action might have been positioned more profitably a couple of yards upstage and in the game scenes the table could have been nearer centre-stage.

Altogether this was a well-conceived, well-rehearsed production. The audience soon realised they could relax; they were in good hands. And actors again emerged who were capable of playing long and exacting roles - riot just coping, but making their marks. A notable list of such Estuary Players performers gets ever longer.

To finish, and I must, on an irritated note. The audience was exhorted at the start of the evening to switch off phones. I think it's more important to ask anyone with an irrepressible cough to remove themselves from the auditorium. Give'em a full refund plus a £10 handshake. Anything to get rid of 'em.

- Reviewed by: BS

From Express & Echo - Thur 20 Nov 2008:

Clearly the Estuary Players have much talent

Group's talents to fore in production

Topsham talent took to the stage in The Estuary Players' female version of The Odd Couple by Neil Simon.

The action takes place in the apartment of Olive, a divorcee, played to perfection by Chris Eilbeck, who gathers her diverse friends together each week for a game of Trivial Pursuit.

Jacquie Howatson, Maggie Butt, Clare Rowland and Rose Gander all brought their characters to sparkling life.

Until the evening when the action begins, the rest of the group of friends are all still married, but one. of their number, Florence (Victoria Jones thoroughly enjoying the chance to throw tantrums) eventually turns up, distraught and suicidal, because her husband has declared their marriage over.

It is this event which inspires Olive to offer Florence a place to stay, something she very quickly comes to regret, because as in the better known (male) film version, this odd couple consists of a slob and an obsessive.

This witty comedy steps up a gear when Olive persuades Florence to double-date neighbouring Spanish brothers, Manolo and Jesus (Bill Pattinson and Howard Eilbeck, revelling in their broken English gaffs and gags, were obviously born to play these parts).

Clearly the Estuary Players have much talent. I look forward to their next production, Love Potion at Exeter Guildhall on February 14.

- Reviewed by: Keren Easterbrook


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