Theatre Review - Role Play, Blackburn Drama Club, Thwaites Empire Theatre

Role Play – Blackburn Drama Club – Thwaites Empire Theatre

Role Play – Blackburn Drama Club – Thwaites Empire Theatre - Credit: Archant

Alan Ayckbourn’s name is synonymous to the theatre comedy. A name that is instantly recognised among the greats, “Role Play” is his 60th play in over seventy that he has written and produced.

Role Play is the story of a fairly normal dinner party where everything imaginable goes wrong. Justin and Julie are in love and are about to reveal to Julie’s parents and Justin’s mum that they are to get married in June. Everything is set in motion with the theme of the story playing out the expected nerves of meeting parents for the first time and ensuring first impressions are good. Julie’s parents are heading to London from Doncaster and Justin’s mother is heading over from Surrey, stopping at literally every pub on the way. Then there is Paige, the former lap dancer who resides in the penthouse flat above and literally falls into Justin’s arms pursued by her psychotic boyfriend’s minder. Not your traditional dinner party by any stretch of the imagination, but an absurdly funny story well put together.

Once again, before an actor has graced the stage, the evidence of the level of professionalism from the drama group is displayed in the superior set leaving nothing out. The icing on the cake is the use of a projected screen through the French windows displaying a view of London Eye set back on the Thames.

Director Dorothy Perkins gradually allows the story to be told with the pace beginning quite slowly, but continuously speeding up throughout the course of the play. Perkins allowed the actors to play to their strengths without affecting the play and ensured the visual comedy as well as the audible comedy was strong.

Matthew Jolley was superb as Justin whose depiction of the character produced some of the plays finer visual comedy performances. His girlfriend, Julie, was played by the wonderful Rowen Cameron who really gripped the emotional elements of the character allowing the audience to feel her intimidation and nervousness. Roger Boardman and Muriel Eccles were an excellent comedy double act as Julie’s parents, Derek and Dee with each actor working exceptionally well together and bringing to life much of the plays real laugh out loud moments. Jacqui Mooney played Justin’s mother, Arabella, who stumbles onto the stage with a sincere yet solemn tardiness to her persona.

Her subtle tone and quiet demeanour ensured that her lines were well received by the audience. Rob Thretheway played the role of loveable Micky Raile, the minder with a heart. Rob’s ability to bring character to the role enabled Micky’s warmer parts to shine through and his true identity blossom. Claire St. Pierre impressed very much with her portrayal of Paige. From her dramatic entrance the range of her abilities as an actor on completely different scales was immaculate keeping up her brilliant London accent throughout, my own native tongue I should add. Her performance would not have not gone unnoticed on a professional stage.

Role Play in my opinion is perhaps the best I have seen of Alan Ayckbourn. The play was full of twists and turns and strong characters with mixed personalities and it was imperative for the performers to ensure that the depth and blend of the characters they played was evident in the performances. As an ensemble I was truly mesmerised by the collective performance of the play and real praise for the actors comes during those moments when you forget you are watching a play which is what I felt from the first scene to the closing curtain, it truly was that captivating. I was hoping for a third act as I was so engrossed in the story and slightly disappointed when it had to come to an end, but in typical Ayckbourn style, it didn’t end quietly!

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I have been fortunate enough to see many of Blackburn Drama Club’s plays in recent months and this one stands out to be the best I have seen from them. With a great script, wonderful set, magnificent direction and superb performances from the entire cast it was the sort of play that Blackburn Drama Club could easily tour professionally and nobody would question it.

Simply put – you have to go and see it!

The show continues from Thursday 1st May up to and including Saturday 3rd May at 7.30pm at the Empire Thwaites Theatre in Blackburn. You can visit the website for more details.