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

Touch and Go

Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


The problem with affairs is that they are so complicated. First off you need both limited integrity and a willing co-flinger, then a safe haven, somewhere the fling can be flung, so to speak, on a regular basis and finally the ability to lie your way out of it, or more likely deeper into it, when playing away gets too close to home.

And, to be fair, Brian and George, are pretty good at infidelity and deception with their romantic liaisons – not that they are having an affair with each other mind, they just happen to have interdependent nookie nights.

Brian, supposedly out jogging, is having it off with Wendy in George’s flat every Wednesday evening, a time when George, as far as Brian knows, is playing darts at the local pub, except the only arrows George is chucking are aimed very much at Hillary, Brian’s missus, with the pair secure in the knowledge that Brian’s horizontal aerobics will give them two hours of passion – starting from . . . now! Goose and gander spring to mind under the circumstances.

Jessica, meanwhile, George’s wife, is a fashion designer on a trip to the USA and is due back tomorrow – tomorrow, in this particular instance, being a variable.

As cosy an arrangement as any adulterer could ask for. What could possibly go wrong? What indeed . . . but give it 15 minutes or so and it will, just watch and then the proverbial, and lots of it, connects with the fan leaving the air full of ever more fanciful excuses and explanations – along with coq au vin - in this clever and witty play from Derek Benfield.

The outsider in this game of sexual musical chairs is Wendy, played as a sort of innocent good-time girl by Naomi Millard. We never quite find out how she and Brian came to know each other both socially and in the Biblical sense, but we do know she finds herself involuntarily assigned all manner of roles in the affair as the porkies reach EU referendum campaign proportions.

Apart from the fact she is having it off with a married man she is almost a blameless party in this whole affair, not really deceiving or betraying anyone.

Brian, on the other hand, played by Keith Hayes, showing some nice comic touches, has a whole raft of transgressions he could cough to, from first degree adultery to trying to drop friend, and in this case completely innocent George, right in it from a very great height in a desperate attempt at self-preservation.


Jessica, Wendy, Hilary, George and Brian 

Rod Bissett is a delight as George, who keeps the flag of farce flying proudly by ending up trouserless on a regular basis. He is obsessed with folding clothes neatly, has all the charisma and sexual magnetism of a chartered accountant and seems to live in a world which is just itching to cause him problems.

His comic timing is spot on as is Liz Webster’s as Hilary, a wife with a rather predatory instinct who, I suspect, did not so much fall into a relationship with her husband’s friend as probably decided to snare him. She has an acerbic tongue when she feels like it, with some lovely changes of tone and demeanour and she gives us a convincing, angry drunk after being well acquainted with the Scotch bottle as the truth emerges at the game changing dinner party.

Which brings us to Suzy Donnelly as wronged wife Jessica in another fine performance from this five-strong cast. She shows an almost amused disbelief at the cock and bull tale of explanation from a semi-dressed Brian and his buxom ‘friend’.

But it is a disbelief which turns to touching sympathy when a more believable and even an emotive explanation is concocted.

And out of that misinformation, which is posh for downright lie, comes a whole world of misunderstanding with, at times, hilarious consequences, as people not so much get the wrong end of the stick as find themselves holding another stick entirely until, as always happens, all the lies implode into a somewhat messy pile at the final dinner party.

The direction from Louise Farmer, Suzy Donnelly’s sister incidentally, keeps things moving along at a cracking pace with some lovely comic touches to enhance the performance.

She also designed the set which is a very clever split stage with George’s flat on one side and Brian’s on the other, with even a table straddling the divide painted white on the left, black on the right. Simple, effective and interesting with Colin Mears on lights doing a fine job in switching sides.

The result is a well-constructed comedy with a plot that is even believable, which cannot be said of some of the outlandish scenarios of some farces, while there is a delightful logic about the way Benfield cleverly constructs and grows the misconceptions and confusion like a toxic cloud by the simple use of harmless conversation where assumptions take the place of actualities. You can see how it all could happen which makes it all great fun as we watch the inevitable train crash unfold before us.

And crash it does but there is still time for one final twist right at the very tip of the tail, the final words in fact – but you will have to see it to find out what it is. A most enjoyable and fun evening. To 22-07-17.

Roger Clarke


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