Photos Reviews

Confusions by Alan Ayckbourn

March 2017

Alan Ayckbourn's very funny Confusions kicks off the celebration of our 40th year. Set in 1977, when Estuary began, the show consists of four interlinked short plays featuring Ayckbourn's trademark failures of communication (his characters that is, not his own). The performances will be on 28 -31 March 2017. The plays are

Mother Figure
In which Lucy the harassed mother of three small children confuses her neighbours.

Drinking Companion
Harry the would-be philandering husband of Lucy tries his luck with Paula and Bernice

Between Mouthfuls
Overbearing businessman Donald Pearce and his wife eat a fraught dinner. At the next table by coincidence sit his employee Martin, and his wife Polly, equally fraught.

Gosforth's Fete
A successful fete organiser requires good weather, reliable equipment, keen and efficient volunteers and some luck besides. Gordon Gosforth has none of these things..


Lucy Compton - Clare Evans

Rosemary, her next door neighbour - Angela Wallwork

Terry, Rosemary's husband - Howard Eilbeck

Harry Compton - Alan Caig

Paula, out on the town - Clare Philbrock

Bernice, her friend - Helen Rushton

Waiter - Bob Drury

Donald Pearce - Anthony Morris

Emma Pearce - Chris Eilbeck

Martin Chalmers - Ian Potts

Polly Chalmers - Kate Wannell

Gordon Gosforth - Mike Edwards

Milly Carter - Marie Watsham

Stewart Stokes - Paul Grace

Vicar - Rob Hole

Production Team:

Director - Howard Eilbeck

Assistant Director - Janine Warre

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Set and Publicity Design - Phil Keen

Set construction - Phil Keen and James Wallwork

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Costume co-ordination - Janine Warre

Wardrobe - Jill Whitehouse

Props - Janine Warre, Lynn Trout

Backstage - Jill Whitehouse, Michelle Evenstar

Sound - Ron Murray

Photography - Angela Wallwork

Front of House - Avril Pattinson and team


From Laughter, Loneliness and Lies - A Review of Estuary Player's Confusions :

I felt confident that we were in for a high standard of acting , and for intelligent well controlled direction

This is Estuary Players fortieth year . The programme produced to accompany Confusions lists an amazing record of their 70 plays as well as things you may not have remembered from 1977 - Abba was number 1 and Abigail's Party also had its first production. Written in 1977 , Confusions was the perfect choice to mark the moment , and perfectly suited the inimitable style and the irrepressible energy of Estuary Players.

Confusions is a set of five one act plays . Estuary did four of them .Described by Alan Acykbourn as five interlinked one act plays , the time is very much set in the present , that is : the then present of 1977.

Confusions was directed by Howard Eilbeck . The direction showed an admirable pace and control, and a remarkable evocation of the seventies through well chosen and well designed sets, props, costumes and lighting ,wonderfully bringing alive the spirit of the times, tacky features and all. Did we really wear purple crimplene , pussy bows and eat grapefruit cocktail with a maraschino cherry and potted shrimps ?

The first play Mother Figure set a brisk tone and pace . Lucy a harassed mum of small children was played with sensitivity and depth by Clare Evans. Lucy hasn't been out or spoken to another adult for weeks , we suspect that her husband is probably a travelling salesman, maybe a reference the play that follows . Lucy came across with tough gritty determination and when she treats her unhappily married next door neighbours to a dose of baby talk, she showed us wittily and playfully that treating adults as though they are children can produce surprising results . There were lots of laughs but also a sense of pathos going on under the surface of the script and Angela Wallwork and Howard as the couple next door conveyed real feelings. Once the next play Drinking companions started I felt confident that we were in for a high standard of acting , and for intelligent well controlled direction bringing out the wit and the comedy , yet making us fully aware of the human loneliness, unhappy relationships , disconnected lives and lies lurk beneath the scenarios .

In Drinking Companions , Alan Caig playing Harry the travelling salesman ( in a fab fawn three piece suit ), he was Lucy's husband from the first play . There were lots of interconnections between the plays , for example the first and second plays both feature a key : a door key and a bedroom key as a device for a comic set up. Harry's monologues were punctuated by his continuous squirm inducing lecherous chuckle , which he kept up the whole way through the play , whilst he drank and attempted to seduce Paula and Berenice , played with tremendous aplomb and comic control by Clare Philbrock and Helen Rushton .

Bob Drury's waiter was spot on too , lugubrious , inscrutable , condescending and long suffering . Bob continued with another waiter role into play number three : Between Mouthfuls . This time he was serving two couples in a restaurant, their relationships clearly awry , airing their distresses in front of the all seeing waiter. The two couples continued talking at their separate tables until the revelation of an affair , inevitably connecting the woman from the one couple with the man from the other . The play concludes not with a marital showdown, but with the two chaps chummily going off to the bar to chat about work . The two couples were cleverly juxtaposed on the set , and when the focus on was on one of them , the other couple engaged in a mesmerising display of mouthing intense conversation with each other , until the focus and lighting switched over to the other couple . Kate Wannell, resplendent in kaftan and platforms, and Ian Potts played Polly and Martin Chalmers with style and wit , whilst Anthony Morris and Chris Eilbeck were convincing as the more senior couple Emma and Donald Pearce , showing us deep sorrow and bitterness just beneath the surface .

It was a good choice to group these three plays together before the interval , because play number four Gosforth's Fete had a very different atmosphere and appeal . This play was more of a farce in style and content . It contained classic comic moments such as an infidelity broadcast over a dodgy PA system , torrential rain , and Emma Pearce who we met in the previous play , now covered in mud as she tries to open the fete in place of her husband , presumably off dallying somewhere . Comic timing was critical in this play , it was well handled and the slapstick moments were funny . The cast complemented and played to each other's strengths with characterful acting by Paul Grace as the cub leader Marie Watsham who played Milly making the teas ,Mike Edwards as the bombastic Mr Gosforth and Rob Hole as the Vicar .

Revelations of infidelity and unhappy marriages were an interconnecting theme of all the plays whether implied through lonely chat up lines in a tacky bar , or explicitly , broadcast to a field full of people. This triggered my curiousity about the fifth play. A quick peek at the text showed it to be very much about isolation and dis connect and bleaker than the previous plays , and talking to the cast afterwards I understood that it is rarely performed.

It was a good choice, I think, to conclude the quattro of plays on a comic note , poking fun at the comedy of the English fete complete with unruly wolf cubs , a tea urn with a tap which won't turn off and lots of mud . Estuary players are on absolutely top form forty years on!

- Reviewed by: Pippa Warin


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