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Review of They Came From Mars (Farndale Avenue) at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

"They Came From Mars and landed outside the Farndale Avenue Church in time for the townswomen's guild's coffee morning" is probably the longest play title out there and currently I reckon the strangest play that I have seen. Having said that and with no prior knowledge of what the play entailed, it turned out that it was much more familiar to me than I first thought.

Written by David McGillivray and Walter J Zerlin Jnr, They Came From Mars is part of a series of plays otherwise known as Farndale Avenue. They centre around a women's guild attempts of producing a play despite a general lack of everything including sets, props, abilities to act and men.

Not long into the play and after a gloriously entertaining audience participation introduction from Mrs Reece (Adrian Wyman) it slowly became clear to me that I had seen many of the ideas before. It is true that Mischief Theatre through their two Goes Wrong plays have refined a failed production to both timing and physical perfection but here in this play is the gestation of many of those ideas nearly thirty years before.

It is both perfect and dangerous at the same for an amateur group to take on such a playm however the Playhouse have more or less nailed it. One of my favourites was the official only gent of the evening, Graham Lee, playing the unwilling toothy vicar Gordon with relish. Channeling Dick Emery to the extreme and keeping that almost perfect voice throughout, he managed to be funny no matter what he was saying. Maggie Holland was also great fun as Norah, despite being mostly drugged up for much of the play and being pushed, carried and cajoled around the stage by the other cast members, she still managed to make the character work, even in a sparkly wig.

Di Wyman made a very successful transition from brother to sister, garnering all the ridiculousness out of the situation. Patricia Gletherow's Felicity was also great entertainment but very softly played. She did manage to be responsible for two of the biggest laughs of the night, first bent over the side board (I had no idea where to look) and then that magic incorrect phaser moment, made even the more better by some out of place audience participation. This moment was superbly fielded and ad-libed by the star of the show.

Adrian Wyman brought in at three days notice due to illness had the enviable task of being a man playing a lady playing a man. I may never write that line again. Despite script in hand he was quite brilliant as Mrs Reece playing the broken nailed Professor. Batty and bizarre doesn't cover it.


The set was suitably inept (to be clear this is good) and there was no doubt that I would be won over by the War of the Worlds music being played over the very funny space travel scene. It was all created with the right edge of bad and good as required from director Clare Brittain.

So quite clearly an utterly insane two hours of "drama" with very spirited performances from all the cast. It is not the best I have seen at the Playhouse by a long way, however somehow it still became one of the most entertaining.

Performance reviewed: Wednesday 16th March, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

They Came From Mars continues at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton until Saturday 19th March, 2016. For full details visit their website at http://www.theplayhousetheatre.net/


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