Canvas – June 2012

7/10

By Michael Wynne

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Tuesday 5th June 2012

We’re not camping or outdoorsy people, Steve and I, so I suspect some of the jokes in the early stages of this play passed us by; others in the audience were finding it funnier than we were at the start. Once the characters were established, though, the humour became more general, and the laughs came more readily. The penultimate scene, the farewell party, was absolutely hilarious and well worth waiting for.

The play showed us three couples, some with kids, and the woman who was theoretically running the camping site they were all staying on. Justine and Alan had brought their kids to the camp site for a holiday at a crucial stage in their lives. Their landscape gardening business was in difficulties, as was their relationship. The camping put them under even more strain but also gave them the chance to work things out, and the final resolution of their situation was appropriate and not unexpected.

Bridget and Rory were another couple with children and completely different attitudes in just about every respect. Bridget was a teacher, and about as controlling as any mother could possibly be, scheduling every second of her children’s ‘holiday’ with worthwhile and improving activities which she mistakenly calls ‘play’. She threw her husband, Rory, out some time before, but allowed him to come on this holiday, which is his only chance to spend some time with his kids. He’s a bit of a doormat, but much more likeable than Bridget.

Alistair and Amanda were the posh couple, who brought so many extras to make their life more comfortable that they weren’t really camping at all. Both were into keeping young and beautiful, and Alistair was the sort who tries it on with every attractive woman in the vicinity. Amanda was used to this character flaw but not happy about it, and presumably only stayed with him to enjoy the lifestyle. The final party was held in their tent, and little extras like a microwave, TV and suchlike clearly made life easier for these two. I did like Bronwyn’s comment about forgetting the tents had a microwave – got a good laugh too.

Bronwyn was the lady running the camp, though she was hard to find whenever the couples wanted her. She was struggling to manage the ‘working farm’ holiday experience on her own, her husband having left her when he discovered there was work involved. The interactions between these people were entertaining and some of the observations were very accurate, especially when Justine recognised that Bridget was a teacher before she’d told them.

There were obvious similarities with Ayckbourn’s writing, but this was a little more realistic as well as funny. The performances were all excellent, and the set worked really well. There was grass at the front of the stage with a simple path up the central line to the tent at the back. It was a large tent with big canvas flaps at the front and a lot of space inside, as well as a stove, sink, table and chairs (some broken) and a bedroom further back which was curtained off from the living room. The tent space rolled forward for some scenes, with the canvas sides lifting up so we could get a good view of the interior. This made for a good staging, and kept the pace up nicely. We certainly enjoyed the performance, as did the rest of the audience.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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