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Don’t Blink Twice or You’ll Miss Something

By Marinell Haegelin

Don’t Lose The Place by Derek Benfield at English Theatre with Robert Rumpf directing

During this fast-paced farce, you’ll be able to loose yourself in laughter. The plot seems simple: a young woman, jilted by her true love, is determinedly taking control of her life. How? By testing the merchandise first. Currently, three candidates vie for her affections, professing love, and offering marriage. Sylvia’s clever arrangement is trysts on alternating days, every-other-week. This fateful Friday summer’s eve, Clive arrives at her riverside flat as scheduled, albeit early. But, so does best friend Jemma, a day early. This turns into a blessing when Walter, then Eddie, unexpectedly show up. Joining forces, the gals determine a strategy: keep the men apart at all times. And this is where the fun kicks into high gear. Because, it transpires that in coming up with plausible excuses for the other bloke(s) being there, their stories are twisted tighter than a pretzel. The men, as different as night and day, trustingly accept their explanations at face value. Sylvia and Jemma’s ordeal is remembering: who said what, and when.

Left to right: Gary Hayden (Eddie), Tara Dowd (Sylvia), Madeleine Hutchins (Jemma), Rafe Young’s (Clive) and James Walmsley (Walter) on the sofa
© Kock, ETH

 

 

British actor-playwright Derek Benfield was an accomplished actor, easily shifting from theatre to television and film. With more than thirty plays to his credit, Benfield was self-effacing. To quote Samuel French, London/New York: “Benfield once said, ‘My family are delighted with my success as a playwright, as it helps to prop up my tottering career as an actor.’” Attesting to the English Theatre’s quest to present the best, and sometimes unfamiliar, plays to Hamburg audiences.

“What do you think was most challenging about this play?” Director Robert Rumpf immediately, and shrewdly replied, “casting,” explaining its cruciality to this unrestrained farce. Thanks to technology, in an online catalogue he looked through 1,000 actors, narrowing the number to a manageable thirty-six. Rumpf contacted the theatre’s London casting agent, Gordon Griffin who had those actors audition in London. Thereby Rumpf chose his stellar cast from the comfort of Hamburg. Rumpf’s intense staging keeps pace with the dialogue that he adroitly accentuates by, at times, immobilizing different actors with ingenious lighting (Justin Farrow), and an uncommon stage setting (Mathias Wardeck).

The actors universally agree keeping the dialogue’s intricacies accurate is paramount, involving intense concentration. Often, series of single words can turn on a dime. English Theatre veteran James Walmsley’s (Walter) analogy is to his driving a car: a sharp turn left, then to the right and immediately left again. Especially, since unlike most farces this play’s character driven. Walmsley’s lines must be spot-on, on time. Understanding his character by imagining what is not written in the play was Rafe Young’s (Clive) challenge, which he obviously has done with panache. Gary Hayden (Eddie) faced his initiation to farce head-on, finding it rewarding to stretch himself. Tara Dowd (Sylvia) likens the shifts from sweet to schemer with juggling balls, knowing she must keep them in the air. For Madeleine Hutchins’ (Jemma) it’s sharing witticisms with, while looking straight at the audience. Also an English Theatre veteran, she explained how the technique – breaking through the fourth wall – was unfamiliar, so enjoy the effect now she’s conquered it.

If you blink twice you could miss something, and be prepared to laugh so hard you’ll have to hang onto your seat. The old Yiddish proverb, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul,” is in the meantime medically proven – laughter bolsters good health. At its quickfire pace, Don’t Lose The Place promises you’ll leave healthier in good spirits.

 

Left to right: James Walmsley (Walter), Madeleine Hutchins (Jemma) and Gary Hayden (Eddie)
© Kock, ETH

 

DON’T LOSE THE PLACE premiered November 17 and runs until February 4, 2017. The next production is OTHELLO, William Shakespeare’s well-known tragedy. It premieres on February 16, 2017 through April 15, 2017.

Evening and matinee performances; tickets available at the theatre or online: ww.englishtheatre.de. The English Theatre of Hamburg, Lerchenfeld 14, 22081 Hamburg, Tel: 040-227 70 89: U-Bahn Mundsburg.

 

 

Rafe Young (Clive) and Tara Dowd (Sylvia)
© Kock, ETH

 

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