Preston Drama Club, Preston Playhouse
Written in 1971, this was a West End hit with Tom Courtenay as Leonard, a role he later reprised for television. It is recognised as one of Ayckbourne’s best plays yet, strangely, it is rarely performed nowadays, so I was delighted to have the chance to see it again at Preston Playhouse.
Mark Kendall is far too dashing a character to play Leonard, best described as an amiable nerd who creates chaos all around him.
Leonard lives with his sister, the mumsy Anna (Carol Caine), and her husband, Graham, a serial lecher, and the action takes place in Graham’s conservatory overlooking a playing field.
Graham’s young employee, Peter (Michael Bilsborough) is visiting, accompanied by his fiancée, Joan. Graham spends most of the first act trying to grope Joan while Leonard, like an al fresco Shirley Valentine, sits by the garden pond talking to his stone gnome (Bernard).
When Act Two opens, the cricket season has given way to the footballs season and Joan and Leonard have fallen in love; an unlikely event in this production with Nicola Snape, as Joan, being young enough to be Leonard’s daughter.
William Buckley revelled in his role as the lascivious Graham, who becomes apoplectic when he spies on the couple through his binoculars and catches them canoodling on the patio.
Eventually, Leonard is instructed to declare his intentions but how will he ever pluck up the courage to tell Peter to his face that he is about to elope with his fiancée? And, of course, he doesn’t. He lets Peter think it was Graham who was stalking Joan with hilarious results. End of his romance, of course, but Leonard was always better advised to stick with Bernard.
Great to see this play again and this was a slick production, expertly directed by Stella Judson.
A tonic for the winter months