Skip to main content

Review of Housebound & Another Fine Mess at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton (White Cobra Productions)

The two companion pieces of Another Fine Mess and Housebound from White Cobra Productions provided a diverting and entertaining couple of hours of entertainment at the Playhouse Theatre. The feature piece is Another Fine Mess from Gillian Plowman, however the pre-interval short Housebound from Simon Mawdesley is an equally captivating play, if not quite such a socially conscience one. Both plays star White Cobra founders Richard Jordan and Kate Billingham, with Another Fine Mess also starring Paul Fowler (who also directs Housebound).

Housebound is dark in concept but high in comic pleasure as the very briefly masked Bone (Richard Jordan) takes the posh Fiona (Kate Billingham) captive in her home of fine furniture, splendid carpets and resident wasps. Without doubt Housebound suffers in these early stages of being a little under rehearsed with a little hesitation obvious at times from the performers. I think also there was still some development needed to strengthen the characters. It does however remain entertaining throughout with the clever and witty dialogue.

Another Fine Mess is better prepared and solid in its production though. This is a gem of a little play and offers a neat and totally unexpected twist to what you might expect. Set in the back room of a pub in the eighties (a crucially important time setting), we meet Stephen (Richard Jordan) and Philip (Paul Fowler) as they work on their Laurel & Hardy double act. Working with them is occasional co-performer and Stephen's bit on the side Meg (Kate Billingham).

Much more polished than Housebound, Another Fine Mess is a cleverly crafted one act play full of brilliant human drama. It is a tricky piece to review without giving away the twist and this deserves to be seen without foreknowledge. Suffice to say when it plays out, it brings high emotion to the piece and the audience. Billingham in particular is strong as the character who takes the news with initial aggression and self interest, rather than sympathy.

The Laurel & Hardy pieces are nicely performed, getting the feel just right of a tribute act take on them. There was also some entertaining choreography created by Mary O'Brien bringing the musical pieces to life. A special treat as well was a pre-recorded piece of radio programming by Stuart Linnell. Leading through the interval into the play itself, this was genuinely funny and featured a nice collection of classic tunes from the eighties.

These two shows are not the most successful of those I have seen White Cobra perform, however knowing sad circumstances behind the scenes in preparation, still leaves these as great achievements. The two plays are both highly entertaining and the latter Another Fine Mess is unquestionably the best performed with that very powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended to try to catch them as they tour on route to the Edinburgh Fringe.

★★½

Performance reviewed: Friday 27th May, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Housebound/Another Fine Mess is currently on tour until August. For details visit: http://www.whitecobraproductions.co.uk/

For full details about the Playhouse Theatre visit their website at http://www.theplayhousetheatre.net/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of A Passage to India at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Creating the world of E. M. Forster's A Passage to India for the stage and into a little over two hours running time offers many challenges, not least creating the visual world of India. However, this co-production between Royal & Derngate and simple8 throw away any need for complex sets, and bring the world of India, including some of its wildlife to life via boxes and bamboo canes. The success of this is really quite amazing as perhaps the crowning moment of the elephant brings home the most. Simple8 is an award-winning ensemble group and the way they work together to get their characters travelling through the world of India explains why they have received the awards.

A Passage to India is a 1924 novel telling of Britain's generally unpleasant rule in India and takes as its story an encounter between the elderly Mrs Moore (Liz Crowther), Adela (Phoebe Pryce), who is keen to see the real India, and Dr Aziz (Asif Khan). While their meetings seem pleasant, to begin with, e…

Review of The Flint Street Nativity, performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Maidwell Hall (Avenue Campus), Northampton

The Flint Street Nativity was presented by the BA Actors as part of a double bill with The Night Before Christmas, and you could hardly imagine such a difference in style. Tim Firth's genuinely, quite endearing play was quite the opposite to the rough and vicious Christmas spirit of the previous show.

Flint Street offers the intriguing situation of adult performers acting as children as they present to their audience (and always watched by the unseen, but a creepy red lighted teacher, Mrs Horrocks), their production of the nativity. It forms quite a delight of totally recognisable characters from your school days if you are able to remember that far back.

Among my favourite performances from this are Gemma Fensham as the total brat Gabriel, never seeming to have an expression other than sucking a lemon, as she breezily switches her best friend back and forth with abandon. She rather stylishly perfected the sulking strutting off routine as well, fabulous! Playing up to his size with…

Review of Balm in Gilead, University of Northampton BA Acting (Creative Acting) at Maidwell Hall, Northampton

Watching the production of Balm in Gilead sees my entering the fifth year of following the University of Northampton acting students, and what theatre they have provided over the years!

Balm in Gilead is no less intriguing than anything that has gone before, written in 1965 by Lanford Wilson, you might think this would be a dated item for the young students to be performing, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Set in a cafe (transposed to England from its original American setting), it sees the lives of addicts, homeless and sex workers converge into a mixture of good but mostly bad moments.
My first time in the Maidwell Hall saw an encounter with a brilliantly realised community full of the world of the cafe and the surrounding homes, cardboard boxes and dishevelled beds. As we enter the characters of this world begin living alongside us, addressing us, begging us for money, pushing shopping trolleys around offering off the cuff exchanges with the audience and confronti…