Farce from the madding crowd

WATCHING this motley bunch of self-regarding small town worthies certainly triggered a few memories.

It was a long time ago, I’ll grant you. But all the same, those endless evenings spent in overheated or refrigerated rooms taking down in my reporter’s notebook every wretched utterance spewed out by councillors or other assorted pompous prigs suddenly seemed like only yesterday.

Dan da dan-dan… the committee. Who would think that three simple syllables could possibly instil such loathing and dread.

Well, Alan Ayckbourn for one, as he demonstrates in this acutely observed but ultimately silly-billy of a play.

It appears that the celebrated playwright was a virgin as far as committees are concerned. Apparently, he only discovered the true horror of the species in 1976 when his company was moving to a new theatre home.

This entailed an interminable series of repetitive and largely pointless, non-productive committee meetings held in order to facilitate the ‘smooth’ running of the operation.

Mind you, to reach the age of 37, and be unaware of such entities, might be viewed as no small achievement in itself.

So. This is a spectacular piece of observational theatre, with the accolades going to a sterling cast, led by the irrepressible Robert Daws as chairman Ray and his monstrous warhorse of a wife Helen, played with terrifying authenticity by Deborah Grant.

Never one to talk normally when bawling will suffice, her invariably shouted words cut through the air like scimitars, lopping off the heads of any infidel committee member who gets in her way. This is a blood sport that’s gruesomely fascinating to watch.

But unfortunately, the finale has all the appeal of a committee minutes book that’s been left out all day in the rain.

No one over the age of eight years should really be laughing at silly costumes, people falling over, or staggering around in ill-fitting trousers. But this being Malvern, they naturally cackle like crones.

Never mind. It may be end-of-the-pier stuff, but this production by the Classic Comedy Theatre Company does what it says on the tin… entertains from start to finish.

Ten Times Table runs until Saturday (November 16).

John Phillpott

 

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