Persever Productions had their first “script-in-hand” reading at St Matthew’s Church, Ealing, last night, and the play was the fast-paced farce Harlequinade by Terence Rattigan.
First performed in 1948, this one-act comedy is set in a provincial theatre “somewhere in the north,” where Arthur Gosport and his wife Edna Selby have stopped off with their company to perform Romeo and Juliet.
With twists, turns, and many opportunities to send up the art of stage performance, Harlequinade offers plenty of laughs and sticky situations, and the cast, led by Jamie Newall and Jennifer Wiltsie, rise to the challenge admirably.
Semi-staged or script-in-hand productions can sometimes be tricky for audiences, but with good material to work from, and strong direction choices (Charlie Barker directs and also plays Dame Maud, “an aged actress”) you quickly fill in the gaps and enjoy the show.
Recent Drama Studio London graduates made up approximately half the cast, with Jack Stoneman’s frazzled stage manager and Sophie Wynn-Jones’s eager-beaver secretary being especially good.
Amongst the professional actors, Newall and Wiltsie made a believable team as a couple mired in greasepaint, while David Whitworth added character colour, and Barker brought an imperious tone to the ageing Maud.
Harlequinade is not performed that much in comparison to Rattigan’s ‘big hits’ (The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, The Winslow Boy), but it is a joy to watch for theatre lovers and stage historians.
Persever Productions is a registered charity working with actors at all stages of their careers, “creating theatre whose aim is to promote and advance public education in, and appreciation of, the arts.”
The next script-in-hand production will take place on 12 Jul, with Was He Anyone by NF Simpson: tickets here. Persever Productions will also continue their Shakespeare in the Park series with As You Like It on 25-28 Aug (2pm and 5pm: tickets here).
Check out my review of last year’s A Comedy of Errors.