By Frank Vickery
12-15 September 2018
Directed by Michael Ayres
“A summer evening’s barbecue with a few friends in a leafy part of Surrey. A pleasant few hours of small talk, laughter and friendly conversation. An idyllic scenario. Yet not in the world of Frank Vickery’s Trivial Pursuits where the underhand maneuvering, petty intrigue, and egos of a small Amateur Dramatic society are hilariously laid bare over two hours.
The director Michael Ayres (also on stage relishing the part of the society’s camp luvvie, Teddy), gathered a group of experienced and talented actors to produce this comedy on The Nomads’ small Studio stage. The restricted space meant the short conversational encounters between the characters could be better handled than in the larger auditorium.
Nick, played confidently by Stuart Tomkins, is the director of the fictional Ockham Operatic Society and the annual barbecue is where he announces the next season’s show. The fact that he cannot get the barbecue to light gives the audience a clue as to the way the evening is going to go – badly!
The first act skilfully established the characters and the fraught situation. What show would Nick announce? Could he be influenced by blackmail, bribery or other means into putting on a favourite of any one of four of the group?
Roz, Nick’s organised and down to earth wife holds the group together in an unflappable way until she realises Nick has been using his directorial influence too intimately with the company’s youngest female recruit. Played by Cheryl Chamberlain, recently seen in Love Me Slender, this was another strong performance. Her sister Joyce, once talented but now a bit of a lush, was played with clear enjoyment by a new Nomad, Fiona Whitehead.
The humourless Mona was wonderfully played as a bit of a diva by Juliana Anderiesz, appearing for the first time on the Nomad stage. The part of the society’s treasurer who knows the truth of the dire financial situation the company is in was ably realised by Elaine Burns whilst the part of the depressive Derek was played as an emotional weakling by Paul Asher. His (soon to be ex), wife Deidre was acted with evident delight in the part by the ever-reliable Moyra Brookes and in the exchanges between her and the pathetic Derek we saw all the impatience of an exasperated wife. Deidre’s escort for the evening, the television obsessed Eddie was played superbly by Iain Macfarlane obviously enjoying the potential for humour in the character.
In the role of the not-quite ingenue Jessica was Alannah Winn-Taylor, a young veteran of the Nomads. She played the part with spark and energy.
Due in no small part to Frank Vickery’s script there were gales of laughter from the audience throughout the show. It ought to be noted that laughs only come off the page when there is an experienced cast who know where the laughs are and how to maintain the pace to maximise impact.
Well done to all the actors.
Movement around the small set was fluid, and no-one bumped into the furniture or each other. The programme tells me the ‘Tuesday Crew’ was responsible for the set design and build. Whoever and how many they are, they did a first-rate job of constructing a small suburban garden. Plaudits are due also to the lighting crew who created the evening light ambiance and to the wardrobe mistress who dressed the cast in clothes reminiscent of that carefree decade of thirty-some years ago.”