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Tom, Dick and Harry (Susan Elkin reviews)

Tom, Dick and Harry
By Ray Cooney and Michael Cooney
society/company: Theatrecraft
performance date: 23 May 2019
venue: Playhouse Whitstable, 104 High Street, Whitstable, Kent. CT5 1AZZ
 

A classic British comedy/farce which sits somewhere between Only Fools and Horses and Arsenic and Old LaceTom, Dick and Harry is only as good as the skill of the directors and actors to make the absurd seem slickly plausible. And I’m pleased to report that it’s in pretty good hands with this company.

Tom (Norman Holness who also directs of which more anon) and his wife Linda (Louise Dekker) are expecting a visit from an adoption agency. But his brothers Dick (Conor White) and Harry (Joe Morgan) get in the way in a narrative which includes a bin liner full of body parts hidden under the sofa, smuggled cigarettes and brandy, a pair of illegal immigrants, the police, the London mafia, lots of doors, people being pushed upstairs and out of windows and much more.

Ray Cooney and his son Michael are very good at writing this sort of warmly and enjoyably silly stuff and this production is very funny indeed in places. I liked the adherence to period (it dates from 2005) with just one tiny mobile phone, historic property prices and the right sort of clothes too.

When I arrived at the theatre, I was presented with a – completely unnecessary as it turned out – written apologetic account of the misfortunes which almost scuppered this show. It was also explained in the programme and in a verbal announcement before curtain up that two serious medical emergencies in the original company involved Holness taking over as director and then, only two weeks ago, also having to play the lead role which is huge. He’s an accomplished naturalistic actor who made the long-suffering Tom seem very real and believable and he got through the entire show with only a couple of subtle prompts – a fine performance by any standards. And the piece is well directed to bring out the daftness and make intelligent use of the space.

Conor White is outstanding as Dick. He’s a very slender build which somehow heightens the comedy as he bounds around the stage like a mountain goat and propels himself up the stair case in a single hop. He plays beautifully off the others too with lots of fast dialogue, focused listening and nice gesture work with his hands. Let’s see more of him in other roles soon please.

Everyone else in the cast works with pleasing coherence although the men are, generally, stronger than the women. Joe Morgan is fun as Harry, the dim brother with the daft ideas and Nick Easton is convincing as the Kosovan refugee who gets hold of a bottle of brandy.

This show is a commendable piece of community theatre which I found well worth the drive down from London for.

First published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Theatrecraft-Tom,%20Dick%20and%20Harry&reviewsID=3584
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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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