Brighton Fringe 2012
Set beside the sea, and with only a couple of deckchairs in tow, these two short plays explore the relationships between two sets of female characters and the surprises they encounter along the way.
Femme Fatale Theatre company’s latest offering is a bit of a mixed bag. The two plays vary in mood and tone, with the first, Early Blight, dramatising the breakdown of a mother/daughter relationship. This play is more effective in revealing characterisation. The elderly Helen is the dominant personality. Knitting as if her life depended on it, she offers nothing but acerbic swipes and verbal put-downs, despite the fact that June – her middle-aged daughter who sits scowling in the neighbouring deckchair – has devoted her life to playing housekeeper, cook, and general all-round carer. June is downtrodden and hard done by, dwarfed by her mother’s over-bearing tendencies. But now June has a bone to pick with her, and so the tables turn. Embattled but firm, June is played with just the right amount of stoicism by Diane Lefley, while Hazel Bell cuts a convincing figure as the hard-nosed Helen.
The second scenario, Day Trippers, is a happier seaside outing, with the same two deckchairs, and the two actors in different parts. We are met with Beryl: a fun-loving, man-loving seductress for whom life begins at forty, and her friend Doris, a more naïve and self-conscious companion. Lefley and
Though acted with ease on both counts, the work lacks poignancy. Dialogue is good but never really finds pace, and the material does not allow time for the audience to emotionally engage with the characters. The first play seems to be over before it starts – more akin in length to a comedy sketch, minus much comedy. There are moments of humour, especially in the second play where the subject matter is lighter, but it’s all a bit forgettable. It’s the actors again who salvage this shortcoming as their comic timing is spot on.
In both plays we see one of the characters change course, and make an assertion not in-keeping with what the other has come to expect of them. Whether it’s June taking a stand against Helen or Doris proving she’s not as straight-laced as Beryl believes, there is a shift in stereotype. This works well in that it prevents the plays seeming arbitrary and brings them more to life, but the issue of empathy still remains. Something bolder needs to come out of this piece. A bit of humanising perhaps, so that when a life-altering decision is made, as in Early Blight, there is more of a natural reaction to the event.
Not a masterpiece by any means but a sound effort from the actors and a fairly successful first half. The second play needs propping up slightly but it’s still a presentable piece of theatre.