Outside Edge - Review
Performed by Holt Dramatic Society at the Glove Factory Studios (15/06/16 - 18/06/16)
In amongst a plethora of outdoor Shakespeare productions and hard on the heels of the Bradfordians’ ‘Emma’ in the Tithe Barn (Tom Shonfeld and Fiona Young appeared in both), it was a delight to head to a brand new venue for Holt Dramatic Society’s pared down outdoor production of ‘Outside Edge’. Set entirely in and around a typical English cricket pavilion, the play documents a Saturday in the life of five couples, drawn together by the demands of cricket.
It proved to be an inspired choice both for the Glove Factory Studios and for a village society which has been adventurous in its choice of productions in recent years. Richard Harris’s play was popular with amateur companies in the 1990s and this current version of the former prize-winner did not date or disappoint. It had the feel of an Alan Ayckbourn - a highly amusing script riddled with dry wit and moments of slapstick and with just as much going on off-stage as on.
It came to life in the hands of Kate Palmer, who has a knack of sensitively exploring the complexities of difficult relationships between lovers, friends and neighbours in her productions. It was clear to the audience from the outset that here was a group of actors in full command of their characters who were having a great time performing together. The fact that some of the couples were couples in reality added further to the enjoyment and depth of the acting.
The play opened with Roger the captain (Duncan Browne with just the right amount of neediness and utter disregard of the feelings of others) ordering his dutiful and much more capable wife Miriam (Fiona Young) around the club-house in preparation for the day’s match. As both the plot and the cricket match get underway it becomes apparent that for the team and their wives, marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Fiona Young gave a touching performance as the used and abused good wife who has spent a lifetime putting her husband first only to discover how much of life has passed her by. Richard Goodman was thoroughly believable as good-natured but cowardly Bob who is still doing odd jobs for his ex-wife behind his current wife Ginnie's (a self-assured Gill Norman) back. John Fletcher made the most of status conscious Dennis and Tom Shonfeld more than filled the expensive and highly polished shoes of suave but lecherous cad, Alex.
I particularly enjoyed the one-upmanship between the members of the cricket team and the childish petulance of demon spin-bowler Kevin (Ian Crook) trying to fight off his over-affectionate wife Maggie, while at the same time nursing his injured spinning finger. Alison Pryke gave a stand-out performance as Maggie, following in the footsteps of Maureen Lipman and Josie Lawrence, showing just how accomplished and versatile she has become. Eirin Young provided sterling support as Alex’s startled cousin who knows nothing about cricket and even less about how to find her way to the Ladies.
I saw it on the opening night when audience numbers were small but appreciative, but by all accounts it was a triumph and played to much bigger houses at the end of the week. All in all this production was huge fun and a thoroughly enjoyable experience, enhanced by the new venue which provided delicious pre-theatre suppers and hot and cold refreshments during the interval. Clearly you don’t need a huge cast, sumptuous costumes, a complex lighting plot and endless props to provide quality outdoor theatre.