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And This Was Odd

by Kenneth Horne

Directed by Keith Miller


 

 

Cast
Morton (a Manservant) David Burchell
Nurse Jones Libby Annetts
Julia Kemp Charlotte Eastes
Jane Simmons Pauline Lucas
Frank Kemp Bez Cuss
Margot Kemp Jodie Snow
Sam Potts Tom Miller
Mrs. Simmons Jennifer Annetts
Lady Monica Wilson Penny Kenward
The action of the play takes place at Frank's house in the country.
It is Christmas, circa 1950.

Director's notes

I stumbled across this play, which was first performed by the Players in 1955, in the archive, and started reading it simply out of curiosity. What I found was a delightful comedy which, far from coming across as dated, still works well, although the language and social context clearly place it in a bygone era. Thus it has accidentally acquired a period charm which the writer never intended.

It is a testament to the quality of the script that this is the first time that the Players have ever staged a play for a third time. The archive shows that it was chosen again in the Spring of 1983, although an old script in the archive box shows that small changes were made to bring the play up to date. On the opening night, we were delighted to find in the audience Belinda (Creed) , who played the part of Margot in the 1983 production.

Our splendid set was built under the supervision of Trevor Lewing, who personally committed many hours to the project, constructing, among other things, a five bay window (with functioning openers) and two impressive bookcases. Furnishings, in the style (so far as we could manage it) of the period were loaned by friends and family, wjile the authentic looking paper chains were fashioned by members of the cast out of strips of coloured paper during breaks in rehearsals. They only fell down once during four performances!

Review

All the posters were proclaiming ‘And This Was Odd’, but when we got there, it wasn’t odd at all! Kenneth Horne’s well-known play from the 1950s was successfully aired by the Players in its early days, and again in the mid-70s, and director Keith Miller had stumbled across it by chance, deciding that the piece, with well-drawn characters of six females and three males in a family plus nurse, butler and friends, also offered a nostalgic period-piece dimension. 

The benevolent matriarch Mrs Simmonds gave Jennifer Annetts a major role, and she wasted not one moment, whether as ‘herself’ or when rendered invisible by her sleeping pills. Her playing was richly varied and very funny. She was in the care of Nurse Jones, played by Libby Annetts in very good form, ruling her patient medically – and everybody else socially, with her ‘nursey knows best’ approach. Son-in-law and homeowner Frank Kemp had newcomer Bez Cuss in an excellent piece of acting, especially in his crush on the professionally correct nurse. Charlotte Eastes played his wife, Julia, under pressure over a gambling debt, and this always dependable actress was fine in the part. Her daughter, Margot, saw another Player’s debut, this time from Jodie Snow, who mastered the quirky and vacillating intensity of the teenager, just as troubled 60 years ago as they are today. Her boyfriend, Sam Potts, was well dealt with by Tom Miller, another wholly reliable actor. Quiet for long periods, the apparent worm finally turned and came to believable life. Pauline Lucas made a good job of the hysterical spinster sister. Two players seen but rarely here did well. David Burchell’s ‘man’ Morton was hilariously observed and acted, an inveterate tip-toeing drink pincher, while Penny Kenward’s frightful guffawing and totally unpleasant Lady Monica was well done. 

The setting turned the minuscule stage into the bay-windowed lounge of a well-to-do upper middle class family home, and Trevor Lewing is to be congratulated on his first major set for the Players. Ken Hall, also a first timer, lit the play, with sound coming from Keith Jellicoe (or rather, his equipment) A nicely judged costume plot enhanced that 50’s feel, thanks to Monica Hayes plus June Dyer. Margaret Hall’s props were faultless as usual, and stage management was in the hands of Vincent Bruce. A pleasant, easy to watch evening, directed to ensure all aspects of the piece were given their due by a strong cast.