Farce at its finest.
You can't beat a good old farce to warm up a winter’s evening, and SSA Drama's production of Derek Benfield's Caught on the Hop is just the ticket. With a large, airy and well-crafted, multiple doorway living room set, almost good enough to live in, the pace and energy of the play shoots from the starting block at the very first second pulling the audience into the scene and deep into the action.
Phil (Chris Cooper) is an addicted romantic with a penchant for meeting and falling for girls on the No. 49 bus. He confides in his best friend, George (Ashlee Sopher) telling him he intends to divorce his wife, Maggie (Maria Theresa Rodriguez) in order to marry his latest girlfriend, Julie (Emma Doran). Phil wants George to tell Maggie about his latest plan but poor bewildered George refuses, only resorting to despair and a swig of the ever-diminishing bottle of whisky when Phil informs him of his intention to move in with Julie, next door. Life becomes rather complicated as events spiral out of control, identities are mistaken, sofas are removed and replaced, plots are plotted and hilarious confusion engulfs the stage.
Chris Cooper and Ashlee Sopher give outstanding performances as Phil and George with excellently balanced and convincing ‘bromance’ interplay between the characters. Maggie, the sensible woman you really want to root for, is played captivatingly by Maria Theresa Rodriguez, her character being in perfect contrast to the innocent and unsuspecting Julie, played equally as well by Emma Doran.
Rachel Pinwell is a delight as the despairing Mrs Puffet, the housekeeper, who isn't fooled by the sofa antics and the men's desperate and somewhat ridiculous explanations of events. Greta, the unconvinced ex-girlfriend, portrayed splendidly by Alice Fennell, arrives at the scene to complicate matters, only to be escorted by George to the linen cupboard and kept happy with the voddy bottle.
The enthusiastic and slightly batty fireman Mr Brasset is played well by Steve Carey and Harvey Grant has us all guessing when Alan arrives at the scene to visit Maggie (or was that Greta?).
Best line of the night goes to the wonderful Mrs Puffet as she exits stage left with her concluding remark "it started with a bang up the backside and ended with a bang in the oven", leaving the audience in fits of laughter, as a well-produced farce should.
With really nice, warm lighting and an uncomplicated set that compliments the chaos, this amateur production is as good as any professional comedy I have seen. Congratulations must go to directors Chris Cooper and Peter Bayliss for their part in ensuring ten out of ten perfection in pace and timing.
There is an art to farce and this was executed perfectly.
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