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Chipperfield Theatre Group

2nd of November 2002

It is perhaps with a sense of mischief that Chipperfield Theatre Group chose Out of Focus for their latest production. One wondered if the opening scene involving several groups being triple booked at a village hall was dear to their hearts. Feeling that for the Badminton club, Brownies and slide show speaker that appeared in the scene, one could read the respective Chipperfield -Theatre Group, WI and Bowls Club. However on this occasion the warring parties put aside (most of) their differences and came together in a common cause – the village pantomime with inevitable chaotic consequences. Most of the CTG big guns were wheeled out for this one and as many of the scenes involved lengthy periods on stage they needed to have their wits about them. Considering these demands and first night nerves, slips were rare. Directors Tricia Richardson and Jo Halkett also deserve credit for their expert handling of stage directions, ensuring that despite there being many actors on stage at once the action was well paced and easy to follow.
That said, the play itself was not as hilarious as the pre-publicity would have you believe. The jokes took some while to kick in and too much of the humour was farce based – the pantomime theme being something of an excuse to raise laughs out of season with its comedy costumes.

It can only be said therefore that the actors did extremely well to make their characters as endearing as they were. Jenny Heuson again stood out as Evonne along with Rob Hine as Wayne but there were no better characters than slide show supremo Leonard Trotter who had the audience in stitches from the moment he entered with his box of slides and left without saying a word. Despite almost every nerdish stereotype being rolled into one, John Ogglesby handled this role expertly. He didnt overplay his hand; instead portraying his characteristics sympathetically with an engaging balance of vapidity and charm.

Overall Out of Focus was an enjoyable, if not vintage, production highlighting perhaps that we have been spoilt by the quality of previous shows. And despite my minor qualms, the audience clearly enjoyed themselves and was kept interested. Jason Cox

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