Off The Hook
11 July 2011
Two crooks arrive at an hotel bringing an unwilling third party whose escape from prison they organised, in the belief that he had hidden the loot in the hotel before his arrest and imprisonment. Unfortunately, they have chosen the wrong man.
The subsequent searches are hindered by a variety of decidedly odd larger than life characters. This is a truly funny farce, with unexpected exits and entrances through various doors.
The hotel - very nicely decked out- was the mainstay of the acts. The lobby comprises of the five doors, lounge settee and reception desk. This is where all of the action-and fun action at that-happens.
The bustling, always something happening at some stage farce that is unmistakably British was very well staged and performed. Unfortunately a few little 'first night' prompts had to be endured, but that certainly didn't detract from the humour and the passion of the actors on stage.
Much hilarity was got from the silliness (again a very British thing) of the script. The crooks in question (Mr Big-Fred Baxter played by Andrew Shutt, Charlie Mullins played by the ever present Westovian Mark Lamb and the hapless Harold Spook, played by the superb Craig Richardson) didn't really have much clue of what what was going on, and they didn't get into action until the feisty Polly (Rachael Walsh) came onto the scene. She was after the same thing that the crooks were. The penny didn't drop for her until she remembered seeing Spook on a visit to prison to visit her boyfriend...also called Spook (one of the many farce confusion issues in this play).
To add to the confusion Edna the hotel cleaner (played by Val Dawson) flitted from scene to scene moaning and muttering under her breath, mainly about her sisters'(the very flirty Norah,played by the great Mary Stepinson) husband and hotel manager Major Catchpole (Bill Marsden). Guests Mrs Fletcher-Brewer and her daughter Carol (played by the impressive Ruth Burn and Jessica Ingoe) piled in on the comedy with almost faultless performances that was rich in total theatre.
Allen Howes playing his first role as Pollys' father did a grand job of being up rooted from his comfortable house to the comical hotel miles from other existence.
Great sound and light (Miriam Beber and Ian Johnson) really helped the super direction of Beryl Henderson and production of Amy Harris.
A very satisfying amount of crowd laughter guided the cast onto delivering a great opening night, that will only get better as the nights roll away
Off The Hook, was a brilliant laugh, by a really good cast. I had worked hard during the day, and could have quite easily just slobbed out instead, this turned me around..my sides were aching with all the guffaws..If you want a great play with the added side splitting moments, then Off The Hook is for you.
Runs until July 16th