Touch and Go

The Mill at Sonning Dinner Theatre, 2 December 2008 – 10 January 2009

Reviewed for the Oxford Times, 4 December 2008 edition

That simple theatrical device, the split stage, is used to great dramatic and comic effect in Touch and Go, the latest offering from the Mill at Sonning.

Two flats, home to two married couples, occupy opposite halves of the stage. Brian borrows George’s flat once a week to bed his mistress, Wendy; George, meanwhile, is at Brian’s flat bedding Brian’s wife Hilary. With both pairs of lovers onstage at once, the parallels between them are made clear.

Both women primp themselves the same way before answering the door. Both men want to get straight to the bedroom; both women want romance with coq au vin. Both couples flirt remarkably similarly – though here the device also highlights the differences between worldly Brian (Darren Machin) and his more awkward, portly counterpart George (Patrick Monckton).

No matter how exciting your affair may seem, writer Derek Benfield is apparently suggesting, other couples are probably going through the same motions at the same moment.

The acting, too, is of a good standard. Maxine Gregory as Wendy achieves an accomplished comic performance without resort to overplay, but is sadly confined backstage most of the time; and then there is Patrick Monckton.
If anyone knows how to please a Mill audience, it is surely Monckton. He is a popular Christmas regular and this is his seventh role at the theatre. No one can deny, either, that he looks hilarious tottering around the stage in polka dot boxers and cycle helmet.

Unfortunately he seems to have taken his credentials as licence to muck about. He continually upstages his fellow actors, and when called on to act shocked he instead delivers lines as if he has a swollen tongue and a sock down his throat.

Farce is a sophisticated form of comedy, and Benfield’s script is a clever example, full of overlapping excuses and alibis. We should be laughing at bumbling George, not at the antics of Patrick Monckton.

Written by Derek Benfield

Crew includes Ron Aldridge, Director; Tony Eden, Set Designer; Jane Kidd, Costume Designer; Janet A. Cantrill, Lighting Designer

Cast includes Belinda Carroll, Jessica; Elizabeth Elvin, Hilary; Maxine Gregory, Wendy; Darren Machin, Brian; Patrick Monckton, George

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