2019 - Alarms and Excursions

The Russell Players production of Alarms and Excursions written by Michael Frayn and directed by Chris Partridge assisted by Juliet Devon, was performed at Swallowfield Parish Hall over three evenings in October. The evening consisted of an ensemble of four playlets with the common theme of people being left helpless by the complexities of modern life. In the first, entitled Alarms and Leavings, Mags Broadhurst, Lynn Marshall, Deni Smale, and Tanya Rinaldi embarked on a dinner party where nothing seemed to work. The audience was left helpless with laughter as a variety of alarms and sundry other failures conspired to ruin the evening. The second was a one-woman play called Glassnost, in which Sheila Partington as a forceful politician had to contend with a wayward autocue operator as she attempted to deliver a speech. The third was Look Away Now, in which Lynn Wright was unseen as she delivered a safety briefing to passengers. The implication was her clothes were being removed as the passengers Glyn Marshall, Mitch Mitchell, and Brian Partington got more and more overwhelmed by proceedings. The last playlet was Immobiles, and in this, Tessa Costin, Lynn Wright, Hazel Gillingwater and Margaret Stead were involved in a series of hugely confused and misunderstood telephone calls and messages in which they tried to arrange the collection of  a passenger arriving in London.

The themes in the four playlets were common ones, and in all four, the characters were struggling to try and accomplish what on the face of it are very simple things – to hold a dinner party, to make a speech, to give a safety briefing and to collect someone from an airport. But in all of them life conspired to make it impossible to achieve what they wanted. All playlets were extremely funny and well acted and directed. The farcical nature of the plots required a straight performance and the entire cast delivered this very effectively. The sets were designed by Chris Partridge and were simple but absolutely right. The use of the floor of the hall for many the various telephones in Immobiles was particularly effective. The evening’s enjoyment was completed by the supper which had been organised by Clare Pilgrim as Front of House – this helped to round out what was a highly enjoyable evening.

Nigel Adams