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Performed March 27th to 29th 2014

Theft - March 2014

Acting greats would struggle to improve drama club’s Theft

THE plot was as thin as a half-empty paint tin topped up with turps. Two couples back from a night out return to a burgled home and catch the criminal red-handed … end of story.

With such a paucity of action and intrigue, it is a credit to the skills of wordsmith Eric Chappell (best known as creator of Rising Damp) that Theft could grip an audience from start to finish.

And it is to their credit that the five-strong cast of Riding Mill Drama Club’s production of the play, that every last drop of humour, bathos and pathos was extracted from Mr Chappell’s meticulously crafted script.

This must rank as one of the best comedies staged by the village’s consistently talented band of players.

There was no slapstick; only the rat-tat-tat fire of interchanges between them against the background of a solitary and simple set.

There were slips of the tongue and a couple of fluffed lines, but they went unnoticed amid the frantic pace of the dialogue.

Mike Smith was superb as the thief Spriggs. He was tailor-made for the role of the doleful burglar whose skills of perception far outweigh his woeful ability as a criminal.

Bit by bit he unpicked the personalities of the other characters, unearthing one guilty secret after another which he hoped to use as a bargaining chip to avoid arrest.

ITV newsman Kenny Toal made his debut in Riding Mill, playing with aplomb and assurance the character of Trevor, an unambitious and rather suppressed civil servant.

He said the appearance before three full houses in the parish hall was more nerve-racking than a live broadcast in front of the regional cameras.

If there was trepidation, it escaped the audience’s notice.

Anita Shepley gave an assured performance playing his wife Jenny, at face value prim and proper, but whose deep-seated frustrations led her to an ongoing affair with her husband’s best friend.

Said best friend – hugely successful businessman John Miles – was portrayed by Ian Lockey, suitably haughty and pompous when the script dictated; but also contrite when his penchant for corruption and extra-marital hanky-panky was revealed.

John’s wife Barbara, whose secret was to lie about her age, was brilliantly played by Hazel Harrison. She remained focused throughout, effortlessly developing her character from drunken gold-digger to devoted and sober lovelorn wife reflecting ruefully on her 20 years of marriage.

She stole the show and the laughs on the first night at the climax of the first act. With hardly a hesitation, she shouted ‘Bang!’ when a prop malfunction meant a pistol remained stubbornly silent as she pulled the trigger.

The ad lib added to, rather than detracted from, the performance.

When it toured the regions some time ago, Theft boasted such luminaries as George Cole and Roy Hudd among the company.

One wonders how these acting greats could have done more justice to Eric Chappell’s masterful creation than the talented amateurs of Riding Mill.

Published by  Hexham Courant Link

Theft Prog
Theft inside

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