Playwright David Tristram is a master of comedy, and Cue Theatre's production of his play Unoriginal Sin certainly does him justice.
Known for his farcical comedies, in Unoriginal Sin he has included all the classic ingredients of a farce, the womanising husband, money-hungry wife, innocent ingenue, Catholic priest and even a chase around the sofa scene that is slapstick at its very best.
Under the thoughtful direction of Christine King, the cast rise to the challenge of delivering the numerous hilarious one-liners the script is packed with, and do so with near perfect comedic timing throughout.
Dixon Lobb is well cast as Bill, the philandering , alcoholic 30-something man who might actually be softer than you first think. A less skilled actor might make Bill a two-dimensional cliche, but Dixon makes sure Bill's softer side shines though early on in the piece, helping the audience experience the plot twists and turns without being uncomfortable jolted when that softer side really comes into its own in the second half.
Dixon is well-matched on stage by Cat Jordan, playing the role of Bill's brittle, money-hungry wife Jenny. It isn't the first time Cat has played this role, and the production clearly benefits from Cat knowing her character so well. That said, with a different cast and director this time, Cat has been given the opportunity to develop Jenny with fresh eyes and she has clearly taken it. Christine's skilful direction makes Jenny a more relatable character than the one David Tristram originally created, and while she still has plenty of hilarious lines to deliver in a fantastically acerbic style, Cat's version of Jenny in this production takes some of the brittleness out, replacing it with a more nuanced and emotionally present version.
With two strong actors cast as Bill and Jenny, Christine is fortunate to have such talent available locally that she was able to keep the standard equally high with the rest of the cast. Jazz Gallagher, as the innocent Eve, day dreaming and romance reading daughter of a priest, makes the perfect foil to Cat's materialistic Jenny. Sweetly funny in the first act, it is in the second half of the play Jazz really comes into her own.
As Eve begins to find herself, so Jazz finds her stride as an actor, with some brilliant physicality on display, with her facial expressions and whole body physicality making Eve's changing attitude to life not just convincing but powerful as well.
When it comes to physicality on stage, Regan Tate, playing the badminton playing librarian fiance of Eve, delivers an absolute masterclass. Despite having barely any lines, Regan owns the stage whenever he is on it, and is a clear audience favourite, with those minimal lines often drowned out by the laughter from the audience every time drippy Neville appears on stage.
Jimmy Bovaird is another actor who clearly understands the importance of movement and mannerisms on stage, with his portrayal of Bill's lawyer friend Miles, who after discovering Bill's underwear in his own wife's possession, agrees to act as Jenny's lawyer in the couple's divorce. It's through Miles' own marriage problems the audience is given a glimpse of the softer side of Bill, and Jimmy and Dixon do an excellent job of ensuring that angle isn't lost amongst the more farcical moments of the play.
Kevin Koch brings many years of stage experience to the role of Father Tomlin, and it shows. He commands the stage whenever he is on it, and does a sterling job of combining the stern and morally upright priestly traits of his character with the more impulsive and reactive traits of a father confronted with a daughter's dalliance with an unsuitable man. The play is at its very best in the scenes when Kevin is on stage, with the farcical chase around the sofa memorable for all the right reasons.
According the programme, this play is the scene of Kevin's swan song as he has decided to retire from acting, and his performance as Father Tomlin certainly means he is going out on an absolute high. He will be sorely missed on stage by anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing him act, this reviewer included.
As always, a play is more than just the sum of the actors on stage, and this one is no exception. The set is absolutely perfect, and Peter Haines has done a fantastic job in creating the quintessential English country cottage, complete with small garden outside. Carole Parr's prop work is also excellent, with thoughtful details throughout. The hair, makeup and wardrobe team have worked well together to ensure each character is perfectly reflected in all the details, and they have set a high standard for future productions. Lighting and sound were also as polished as they always are for Cue Theatre productions, from motorcars arriving and leaving to changes of time all well-timed and realistic.
Overall this production brings together everything there is to like about local, amateur theatre, from a well chosen play to a talented cast, combined with a backstage team who bring a polish other theatre companies can only hope to achieve.