TRICKS by Sylvia Walker
Irene Rostron GODA reports on Hyde Festival Theatre's production of the newest SyMa Walker offering.
North West playwright, Sylvia NaJker, has again turned up • m ps, t\"\is time w\t\"\ a play 'hat she rightly describes as
comedy-drama. Her earlier • lays are virtually a laugh-a ...., nllte, her finger unerringly .l:CCurate on the audience's aughter zone, while sustaining splendid ability for clever tC one-liners and 'punch' 'S. He e, she reveals a darker de adding a deeper ~ E ~ SIOn to her writing. "'" - attracting capacity -iCeS throughout the run , • oos were fulfilled. As
long-term service by Manager's son Kenneth does not lessen Betly's sense ot loss, not merely at being 'signed off', but at the loss of this link with her deceased husband, Albert, who died many years earlier in what was termed an 'industrial accident' at the factory. But we, and Betty, are brought to earth with a bump as we see her returned home bored out of her mind , viewing with disgust the "Bloody clock. The last thing you want when you're retired." (She and her colleagues have done enough clock-watching in their time!) Her bitterness at the loss of Albert, and her determination to get even with the workmate whose carelessness caused his death, still remain paramount but he is long beyond her reach - in Australia. Meanwhile her fellow ex-Wufter pals Betty and Olive, equally bored, cheer her up with talk of finding a new
hobby. But Betty has already had "an idea going round in her head for some time - to fill a gap in the pensioner market. New tricks for old dogs ". A month later, Betty is able to reveal her plan. They're going to start a dating agency, only "more homely - exclusively for pensioners who, unlike vampires , don 't like to go out at night". They will become "recycled teenagers ". The so called 'Golden Girls' (now including Maggie) as they were known at the factory, warm to Betty's plan having mapped out the modus operandi for the various stages , to be centred on Betty's home (so she can oversee the interviews from the privacy of her kitchen, in case of problems) the partners put it into action - christening it "Young at Heart", and titling themselves "Date Agency Marketing Executives (DAMES)". And the first names
in the computer will be their own. Meanwhile, romance has already blossomed. Calling to enquire after Betty's well being, boss 's son, Kenneth, meets her daughter Linda, and they hit it off, despite the intrusion of Betty's fast , flashy younger sister, Tina, mad on men, money - and tap dancing, with a dodgy son studying "reading, writing, and ram-raiding"! At last, the first client turns up - vulnerable, shy, be-wigged Walter Osmond-Baldwin, whose fiancee Muriel has just broken off their engagement - after 25 years. "Very impatient - kept wanting me to name the day"! He's also a cleaning fetishist, and relies on Sanatogen for support. Introduced to the enthusiastic Olive, they find a growing rapport - both adore their corgis ("like the Queen"), Brucie and Lucie. If Walter was odd, Donald Trebilco ("Treble-Cock" to Betty) is downright rum. A retired glass technologist (a window cleaner), Donald is expensively dressed, and has two hobbies: tap dancing and crowd control! He's quite categorical about the lady he wants to meet: "Nobody shop soiled - a virgin - a Vestal Virgin". They haven't any "V.V.'s" on their books - all they can offer is a lady who attends bible classes. Donald's reveals his idiosyncrasies to include impersonating pop divas, and answering questions on Ivan the Terrible and Adolf Hitler. But he becomes eminently marriageable with the news he is an £8 mill ion Lottery Winner! "A tap dancing mil lionaire"! Betty has "the very girl for you " and before you can say "step
ball-change" the definitely "shop-soiled" Tina has bedazzled Donald , as she displays herself decked out in frills and red sequins, "It were like being struck by lightning!". (He runs to a fancy cummerbund - and, despite proving totally inept as a tap dancer, "I model me-self on Gene, you know" .) So, one by one (or two by two), no matter how incongruous, romance enters their lives (motives ranging from smitten , to poodle passion, to lovely lucre!) . All but Betty. Then a name from the past appears on the computer - Mike Taylor, just returned from Oz. Could it be Albert's nemesis? He seeks "a strong lady with a sense of humour". "Just up your street" suggests Maggie to Betty, as the Golden Girls urge her to put the past behind her. She promises "to give it some thought" and, as if in jest, "Even if I have to take rat pOison with me." Later, to the delight of all, Betty does decide to meet one of her clients, without revealing his identity and breaking the Agency rules that they meet at her home. As they wait for her to depart, the others joke
about a recipe they 've found that she's taken off the website - it mimics digitalis. Smartly dressed, wearing the pearls Albert gave her; Betty prepares to depart, revealing the client's name as Michael. Tina praises Betty's "drop dead gorgeous" appearance: "This Michael will fall flat at your feet - you'll knock him dead, love." "That's exactly what I have in mind, Tina, " toasting Albert and , as she leaves, "Like they say, every dog has its day. " This bald synopsis gives no idea of Walker's skills in dialogue, which is constantly inventive, constantly in touch with the audience's funny bone, but in this instance also revealing pathos, and the obsessive nature that lies behind Betty's outward flippancy. Again, Walker has assembled a highly experienced cast, several of them regulars particularly Jean Fricker, Mavis Kinnersley and Bernice Murrow, all well defined/ contrasted roles (and that fine character player
once, among innumerable sensitive characterisations, a notable Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, Peter Bramall as the ridiculous Osmond), and. of course, not least that outstanding character actress Kath Coles, who invests Betty not only with strength of character, but that spot second timing of which is a noted mistress. John Bloor's Treblecock was yet another masterpiece of com ic observation, and Catherine and Andrew Connolly as Betty and Kenneth gave excellent support. Last but certainly not least Michele Pownall, who took over the role of the flamboyant, self-seeking Tina at the very last minute due to the illness of Pauline Slate. As always with this Company, the ensemble playing was first rate . Once again, the Director was Phyllis Abbott, a dab hand at directing comedy if, on this occasion, tending rather to the static. The sing le, effectively dressed, setting, designed and built by Andrew Greenwood, is Betty's living room, with door upstage revealing hall . Certainly worth considering if you're looking for a new comedy with an edge to it. Contact: Sylvia Walker on 0161 338 4662.
Irene Rostron GODA on Hyde Festival Theatre's production of Old Dogs, New Tricks by Sylvia Walker