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

Comedy to die for

Natural Causes

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


YOU can guarantee when you encounter the work of Eric Chappell that you are in for an eloquent, yet bitingly sarcastic view of life.

His most famous creation being Rising damp, which provided him with exactly the right blend of characters to practice his individual observations on life, and his play Natural Causes is yet another well written excursion into examining relationships under the microscope of irony.

The play written in 1988 bears all of the hallmarks of a society reexamining their rights and individual life options and euthanasia was and still is a much talked of subject.

In response to that Chappell created Vincent a practitioner from Exodus, a private euthanasia group. For a sum of money they attend and swiftly assist professionally in your suicide all with a drop of natural poison.

A call from a customer, Walter Bryce, for his services seems like business as usual, but on his arrival things don’t quite seem what they appear to be. We have a depressed wife leaving a portfolio of unsigned suicide notes, several mistaken identities and a secretary who seems to be a little too interested in her bosses’ affairs.

The play is well directed by Sue Smith and lot of fun, yet between the dark comedy are some very sharp observations on life, and our reasons to end or continue with it, that require a balance in the performance to get just right.

Tony Childs as Walter Bryce gave just the right amount of panic and dismay as his intended plot to remove his wife, clearing the way for his affair with his secretary, was toppled, diverted and reimagined at the hands of everyone involved.

Jane Lush played Angie doing her best to make sure Walter keeps his intentions to be with her, only to see his ardour for her swaying under the weight of his wife’s possible death.

Sue Hawkins was Celia Bryce and did a fine job of keeping everyone guessing as to who was plotting what or with whom.

Dave Bonnick was the hapless and doubting Samaritan Withers, called upon to rescue the situation and failing miserably as his own sureties of happiness became eroded by the doubt of his own wife and her possible affair.

It was John Lines as Vincent though who kept the entire proceeding flowing with a dry `bank manger like‘ take on his role of the bringer of death. Played like an insurance salesman on just another house call, and reminding us continually of his leaving school at 16 with little education, yet having studied at night school, enabled his character to deliver some very complex and amusing passages of dialogue. When Mr. Bryce insists he would prefer to be interned at his death rather than cremated so that he becomes part of the food cycle of the earth, Vincent quips : `So you want to come back as a sliced loaf of bread.’

Natural Causes is a very funny play and the Swan Theatre Amateur Company has done an excellent job of bringing Chappell’s ironic wit to life (and death) in this tragic yet continually changing comedy. To 20-06-15

Jeff Grant


Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate