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Fairway To Heaven By Chipperfield Theatre Group

1st of September 2010

Coinciding as it did with England’s World Cup follies it seems fitting that Chipperfield Theatre Group tried their hand at farce for their latest production, Fairway to Heaven. Like England in the group stages, the start wasn’t promising but unlike Rooney, Gerrard and co, they ultimately delivered.
Knowing nothing about the play beforehand, it wasn’t long before I realised I would have to leave my pretensions at the door. A quite laboured double entendre about two ornamental jugs being displayed at chest height was the first in series of frankly dreadful puns that made me roll my eyes in despair. This wasn’t high end theatre – it was Carry On.
So how come it ended up working? Well firstly, the performances were top drawer. Sarah Jane Bottrill returned from self imposed exile and delighted in her saucy cameo as the gardener’s daughter, Euphemia Crump. Her portrayal of the simpleton was warm and sympathetic and not only because of her striptease in the second half of the play was it the stand out performance of the night. I’m sure I speak for at least half of the audience when I say I wish we’d seen a bit more of her!
I can’t really say the same for Derek Rookley who drew the short straw when the lead males got kitted out for the “Vicars and Tarts” party. The sight of him cavorting in a mini skirt and suspenders was enough to make me choke on my Wurthers Originals that were on hand as a freebie at half time. But the fact that he looked like an usher at Daffyd’s civil ceremony enhanced the desperation he was very adept in portraying.
Add Jennifer Heuson (Lady Fotheringham) buzzing round like a Miss Marple on speed, Wendy Marchant delving back into her archive of foreign accents and Melanie Winward gluing things together with a performance of great authority and you can pretty much get away with anything. And they did. For every corny play on words there was a decent quip – the asides from Lady Fotheringham worked best. And although the slapstick was a tad too contrived, we had invested enough in the characters to cringe with them when they found themselves in perilous situations. And if nothing else, this served me in good stead for the performances of John Terry and Matthew Upson in the debacle against Germany.
Jason Cox

 
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