Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Ruella, Poopay and Julian

Sue Smith as Ruella, Poppy Cooksey-Heyfron as Poopay and Christopher Kingsley as hotel security supremo Harold.

Communicating Doors

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


IF you enjoy a good murder mystery –  although there is not really any mystery involved as we know who did . . . or didn’t do it – then this is for you . . . or perhaps not.

After all there are three murders to go at – four if you count our friendly neighbourhood serial killer’s mum –  or maybe it’s two, or it could be one or even none. It all depends when you come in and which scene you are watching.

You see, in the present, which is in our past, set as it is in 2014 when civil war is ravaging Britain – funny how we missed that on the news - a dodgy London businessman is preparing for his final big deal - this time with his maker.

Filthy rich Reese is being cared for by his rather sinister camp associate Julian in the finest suite in the London hotel he owns. His death is imminent and as a sort of terminal treat he has ordered a lady of the night, presumably on room service.

Enter Poopay who is offering somewhat more than he ordered. She is a specialist in that niche field of the horizontal industry, a leather clad dominatrix. Without giving too much away, Reece and Poopay are then left alone to get down to business, a business which might surprise you, and one which leads to our dying tycoon collapsing and gasping for air.

As Poopay, real name Phoebe, may or may not know more than is good for her, the returning Julian decides to err on the side of caution and comes up with a permanent solution, namely Poopay having a fatal accident.

She escapes through the connecting door and . . . well that is where the mystery starts as she stumbles into the same suite now occupied by Reece’s second wife, Ruella, in 1994. Not suprisingly, she doesn’t believe a word the dominatrix from the future tells her. To prove it she goes through the door, only to find herself in the same room in 1974, occupied by Reece on his honeymoon with first wife Jessica.

Which is even more confusing as half the characters are supposed to be dead by the time Poopay first came on the scene forty years later, or three years in the past as far as we are concerned, and all are very much alive. The moral of the tale apparently being avoid connecting doors whenever possible.

poopay and julian

Poppy Cooksey-Heyfron as dominatrix Poopay with hovering behind with cushion, and no little intent, Martin Bourne as Julian 

Chris Isaac, with forty years to cover, gives us the young Reece full of lust, sorry, life as a young honeymooner as well as the dying, rasping voiced wheeler dealer, preparing to breathe his last. A wonderful performance.

Equally impressive is Martin Bourne as the slightly effeminate, but totally sinister Julian who sees murder as a possible solution to any problem.

Sue Smith is a very matter of fact Ruella, with some lovely throwaway lines in a thoroughly convincing performance as wife No2 while Rachael Skerrett is first a flighty honeymooner then confident mother as wife No 1 Jessica.

And Poppy Cooksey-Heyfron is a delight as dominatrix Poopay, slim attractive and every leather clad inch adding to her performance as a lady offering a good time.

It is a lovely balanced performance from hard-nosed, detached sex worker to frightened young woman, brought up in care, fearing for her life. Her relationship with Ruella is about to change the course of history.

And through it all from young man with a dream and a mullet to a more mature character, dreams, and hairline, long faded, is Christopher Kingsley as the head of hotel security Harold, not the brightest, but reliable and called as each different interloper appears out of the connecting door, twenty years apart.

This is a very different play from Alan Ayckbourn, dating back to 1994. There is no satire on the middle classes, no digs at comfortable suburbia, no hint of farce even. This is time travel, pure and simple, and questioning whether changing the past can change the future.

Perhaps it is best not to delve too deeply into the physics involved in this bending of time, a plot which defies even rudimentary logic. So just suspend credulity and enjoy a well-acted and well-produced play which has a nice mix of tension, along with some gentle humour.

This is a production, directed by Marc Dugmore, which ticks the boxes. Not only is it an exceptional cast but each actor can pass convincingly as their character, a young, slim, sexy Poopay for example, or an aging, balding rasping Reece, who loses 40 years with a wig and a twinkle in his eye.

Something which is not always the case in amateur productions where it is often a case for directors of take what you can get, and Dugmore got the jackpot with his one.

Dugmore and Andy Hares and the set building team also deserve some credit for a fine looking set with an ingenious revolving communication door aided by clever lighting and sound from Steve Willis.

The result is an entertaining evening watching a fine production and one that is well worth seeing. To 25-02-1.

Roger Clarke


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