‘Love and Mistletoe’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by December 8, 2017

‘Love and Mistletoe’ was written in 2013, and is the latest humorous comedy by Raymond Hopkins. Raymond lives in Oxfordshire, and has been writing comedies since 1998, when at the age of 19, his daughter developed MS. Since this time, he has generously donated his royalties to Multiple Sclerosis Research UK. To date, ten of Raymond’s plays have raised an incredible £41,807.56.

His plays have been extremely successful in the UK, with hundreds of productions and some beach resorts have had summer season runs.

Thanks to Stirling Theatre, this hilarious 2-hour production is having its Australian Premiere in the Community Centre Theatre, Morris Place in Innaloo. The shows can be seen nightly at 8.00, until Saturday 9th December. There are matinées on 26th November and 3rd December at 2.00 pm.

 

When Playlovers lost the use of their theatre, Stirling offered Playlovers’ lighting expert, John Woolrych, assistance in storing their LED lights. John kindly suggested that Stirling should use them for the moment; the result was a vast improvement on the old incandescent. This encouraged Stirling Players to apply for a grant, and they have now received $3,000 from the Scarborough Community Chest; so soon, Stirling will have their own modern and versatile lights. Stirling would like to express their appreciation to Playlovers and John for all of their help.

I must put it on the statutes that I am a dual citizen, therefore I know, and have experienced mistletoe. So I had to laugh when only half the people that I spoke to had heard of this evergreen plant with waxy, white berries that grows on the branches of trees in wintertime. It puts roots into the bark and becomes parasitic on the tree – working as one. Likewise, when a man holds a piece of mistletoe above a girl’s head, she is obliged to kiss him – and hopefully they will also become ‘one’.

 

The scene: It is Christmas Eve in the Millard’s upmarket home on the outskirts of London.

The set: There was an audible gasp accompanied by a rare applause when the audience saw the set. It was stunning. The walls were red, with white detailing. On the right of the stage was a large, white marble fireplace. On the floor an Axminster carpet, and a beautiful floral fabric, high backed settee and matching chair. The walls had several quality pictures and paintings (not the ‘tired’ ones that we see so often). A crystal chandelier hung in the middle of the room. A fully decorated, illuminated Christmas tree was in the corner, and tinsel hung everywhere. The magnificent set was designed and constructed by Carole and Ian Wilson, a huge task. Carryn McLean supplied many of the props, and acted as an assistant to the stage manager, Melissa Skeffington.

The audio effects were realistic and played at a subtle level by operator, Ian Wilson. Paul Anderson operated John Woolrych’s fine lighting design.

 

       Stern and pedantic Sue (Janet Weston – superb) is a catering business owner, who has taken the family business from a home kitchen to numerous stores, and dozens of employees. However, in the process she has ignored her loving husband, Tom (Peter Boylen).

     Sue is worried about her aging father, Brian (Peter Neaves), and how his savings are starting to dwindle. Then in a brainwave, she decides that if she can introduce him to some wealthy lady of a similar age, all of his problems will be solved. Just as she finishes explaining her plan to husband Tom, their daughter, Felicia (Maree Stedul) arrives to drop off her parents’ Christmas presents, as she intends spending Christmas Day with her ‘weird boyfriend’, Hugo.

       Just as Brian is settling down to a drink with his son-in-law Tom, a red hot – no, steaming hot – blonde widow, Mavis (Janet Brandwood – riotous) arrives to meet and devour Brian. Just as Mavis is sinking in her claws, Martha (Julie Holmshaw) an unmarried, self-made millionaire arrives, rapidly followed by gorgeous Mabel (Sally Boteler) part of the international swinging set. It is mayhem and poor Brian is now out of his depth.

       Eventually the three prospective partners leave, and exhausted, Tom and Sue settle down for a drink. A car can be heard arriving. Out of the blue, their bridesmaid Julie (Charlotte Weber), with whom they lost touch a decade earlier, has been abandoned by her husband, and has come looking for a safe haven.

     With so many women around, Christmas to organise, and a business to run, Sue has become confused with the situation – and strangely MOST suspicious of her husband.

 

Director Carole Wilson has been a major force with Stirling Players for 30 years. The Company are known mainly for their dramas, and children’s productions, with only the odd comedy. So, I was interested to see how they would handle this spicy and semi-farcical production. Carole’s productions always have a good solid ‘realism’ to them. With the cast playing down the pandemonium, I could hear the married couples in the audience laughing as they recognised themselves. Peter Boylen was great as the hen-pecked husband, always in a confused state with his nagging wife’s acrid comments. Peter Neaves, as the father, looked permanently elated at the extra attention. The cast had great chemistry and perfect pace as they milked the situation.

The script was cleverly written, so that the dialogue was specific to each character, flowing naturally and with perfect pace.

I have seen a few of Raymond Hopkins’ plays and this one of his funniest. Many congratulations to all concerned.