Farce Without Fizz.
They say that dogs and children are the biggest scene stealers, but Chipping Campden Grammar School’s production of ‘Dr. Knock’ by Jules Romains, in the school hall last Thursday & Friday, was almost stolen by a car, a magnificent vintage model with gold adornments, a horn’s note like the cry of a wild goose, & four wobbly wheels supported, if one’s eyes did not deceive, by bed legs on castors.
The car was only one of several scenic eye-openers. With it went an invigorating Alpine backcloth, & later we saw the inside ofa doctor’s consulting room, hung with gruesome anatomical charts. A drooping human skeleton, malevolently welcomed patients at the door.
In the last scene, the atmosphere of an old fashioned provincial hotel was conjured up by neat deployment of two frightful pictures, a wash-stand & a pot plant.
Of the performance one must express reservations. The play was described as a farce, but did not fizz or pop in the accepted farcial tradition. An inexplicable flatness hung over the proceedings & one’s attention frequently wandered. Whether this was the fault of the author or of the producer, Mr. Meteyard it is hard to say.
As the doctor, Edward Armitage gave a remarkable, virtuoso performance. He was on the stage continuously during the first two acts & was only absent for about ten minutes in the third. His part also required him to deliver lengthy speeches filled with jaw-breaking medical terminology. Yet, he didn’t falter & his portrait of this half comic, half sinister practioner was firmly drawn & convincing. It was a fine piece of acting.
Yet one must ask whether a school – even when it has a boy of Armitage’s theatrical talent – should put on a play that is virtually a one-man show. None of the other parts amounted to anything but were compently played by a largish cast. Surely the honours should be more evenly divided in a children’s play?
The rest of the cast consisted of P.Goldbey, T.Armstrong, Janet Whitehead, C.Burrows, R.Carter, Wendy Wright, A.Palmer, Shirley Keitley, Cheryl Price, C.Farr, R.Bullock, Pat Hart, D.Pearce & Ann Cutts.
Backstage were Mr. Fowles & G.Newbury lighting; Miss Bint, Pamela Richardson & Susan Duggan costume; Mr. Moore, R.Mansell & D.Smith stage managers; Mr Howells & Miss Hill make-up; R.Beacham sound & music; Miss Secker properties; & Gillian Sadler, Irene Sposini & R.Shadbolt prompter & assistants. The sets were by Mr. Howells & the Art Club & the car – that memorable car – was built by Mr Unsted, Mr Howells & the Woodwork Club.