Writer/Director: Lucy Campbell
Designer: Laura Ann Price
Dance Artist: Vanessa Grasse
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
Huddersfield-based Dark Horse Theatre offers training courses in theatre to adults with learning disabilities and helps some of them to become professional actors. With You Have Been Watching, which ended its short Yorkshire tour at Scarborough, the company has been able to field a full cast of eight Down syndrome actors. So it must be earnestly well-intentioned, surely. Well, there’s no doubt Dark Horse has good intentions, but earnest? Never! Lucy Campbell’s script is absurd, very silly indeed and clearly as much fun for the cast as for the audience. The programme states, “We hope that you enjoy watching it as much as we have enjoyed making it,” a conventional statement, but for once totally believable.
The play is built around the remarkable talents of Joe Sproulle, outstanding in a previous Dark Horse production, Sing Something Simple, and even better here. He plays Martin Midgley, an aspiring actor who is determined to get a part in the sitcom BAD, a vapid two-girls-sharing-a flat storyline, with eccentric relations and a boring boyfriend visiting. As an extra and in various bit parts he always ends up being thrown out through the window by obstreperous cousin Colin.
Martin Midgley has the ear of the director (this is not a realistic narrative) and arranges for the sitcom to change to a murder mystery, with himself cast as Detective Bob Newman. But to keep his part he must find the body and solve the crime – and it’s hard enough even to do the first part when people keep springing back to life.
Sproulle introduces the scenes with great humour and confidence, creating an instant rapport with the audience, inviting ideas and suggestions and gleefully ad-libbing his responses. He makes the audience complicit in his plot to gain a regular part, with applause for his every entry. As Martin/Bob, his sense of humour is infectious, half-cheerful, half-doleful as he’s dumped through the window again.
The script is neatly tailored to the abilities of the acting ensemble, with dialogue often subordinate to smart and funny visual routines by Campbell and Vanessa Grasse. Laura Ann Price’s designs work superbly. Her simple, but versatile, set is dominated by a set of pigeon holes with, mainly, television-related objects and by a large settee which is transformed into writing desk and bar. Her costumes are outrageous. Toby Meredith’s Virgil is pretty menacing in pink, and pink’s the colour, too, for Ben Langford’s very funny drag act as Gilda, man-mad and waspish to boot.
Rebekah Hill and Alice Rogers give strong performances as the two flatmates, and Paul Wilson (the odious Colin). Mark Craven and Andrea Williams complete an entertaining ensemble.
Reviewed on 19 October 2017 | Image: Contributed