‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by May 14, 2016

‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’ is a funny, saucy farce by celebrated playwright, Geoff Bamber, who, being a primary school teacher, usually specialises in writing children’s books.

This two-hour comedy is being presented by the Endeavour Theatre Company, now in its 25th year, at the attractive, upgraded Hamersley Recreation Centre, Belvedere Road, Hamersley on Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 pm until 21st May. There is a Matinee on Sunday 15th May at 2.30 pm.

Since my last visit the seating has cushions, the lighting rig is now ceiling mounted and the toilet facilities very smart.

 

The scene is the present day, in the lobby of a lakeside hotel in the south of England. At the rear of the lobby is set of patio doors leading to the garden. Darren Jones, John Orr and Toni Davies’ smart set received a worthy round of applause when the curtains opened. Stage managed by Lesley Pascoe.

The sound and lights were operated by Angelica Franz and Christine Evans.

 

        Hotel owners, lackadaisical Peter Fenton (Pete Hollings) and his conscientious wife, Jane (Sharon Jones) are really struggling to make the place pay. With very few visitors and no income, a visit from the bank’s credit manager, Ruth Bleach (Rosanna Baccala) was inevitable. However, there is a Pop Festival in the field down the road, perhaps that may help.

        Peter receives a ‘phone call booking the honeymoon suite for Mr and Mrs Jones, who is actually a pseudonym for Roger Crompton (Simon Magill) and his fancy woman; when one of Roger’s work colleagues arrives, panic ensues.

       Then the obliging, but slightly dim, Latvian maid, Saskia (Kerry Inkster) takes a booking from legendary pop star, Nathan Pond (Jarred Skeen) and his ‘hot’ personal assistant, Cassandra (Kristy Rowe) – who in order to avoid the fans, have also booked under the name of Mr and Mrs Jones. Mistaken identities abound.

       Policewoman, Wendy Primm (Penny Chambers) arrives to check the security for pop singer, Nathan as he has been stalked for years by aging fan, Daphne Flannel, even more misunderstandings happen.

       The guests’ rooms become confused as the clothes disappear.

 

The whole cast were filled with enthusiasm, drive, worked hard, played the risqué parts with aplomb, and acted well – however, and unfortunately it is a big ‘however’ – regrettably, the direction given was for the standard dramatic, acting style, which the cast did well.

But this was a well written farce, and so the dialogue delivery fell to pieces, and consequently many jokes just did not work. The chemistry between the characters did not really develop and so the dialogue did not flow. The result was the show’s pace suffered badly, and so it was about 40 minutes longer than it could have been. The prompt, Denise Morgan, fed the words surreptitiously but with 20 or more prompts this couldn’t be blamed on first night nerves – and I don’t think there were too many in any case.

Farce needs some of the following: – fast entrances and exits, with no strolling around. The dialogue to be spoken snappily, often with the actor half-stooped with panic and anxiety. The actors should be on the move almost constantly, frantic is the mood. The whole body should ‘bob and bow’ like a boxer in the ring, as the characters anticipate and avoid the next verbal deluge from another actor. I really felt sorry for the cast, as they gave the show everything, but it was a fine example of wrong genre chaos.

Finally, it was almost one and a half minutes from the closing of the curtains, to the curtain call. People were starting to stand to leave. 10 seconds maximum. I saw that pieces of furniture had to be moved, but with several men in the cast, this could have been done in seconds with correct allotment of tasks.

I know this show will improve rapidly, as the cast are dedicated. The audience saw how much work had gone into the performance and were MOST supportive. Good luck. Great fun.