Monday 11th October to Saturday 16th October 1971
Directed and Produced by Helena Whalley
Reflections on the married state from the altar to the grave.
Mixed Doubles takes the form of eight short plays, each for two characters written by the authors listed above. Each is an independent play in its own right but the whole sequence, linked by a series of wickedly anti-authoritarian monologues written by George Melly adds up to an amusing, if acid picture of the progress of married life from honeymoon to cemetery. It was first produced at the Hampstead Theatre Club in 1969.
Bench Theatre's original name was 'Theatre Union' and was later changed to reflect the name of the theatre in West Street where most of their productions were staged. This production was performed under the original Theatre Union name and staged at The Bench Theatre building in West Street. It was the company's second major production at that venue which was their home for nearly 7 years.
|The Vicar (George Melly)||Tim Mahoney|
|A Man's Best Friend (James Saunders)||Ruth Pitcher |
|The Bank Manager (George Melly)||Tony Starr|
|Score (Lyndon Brook)||Di Lockyer |
|The Lawyer (George Melly)||Tim Mahoney|
|Norma (Alun Owen)||Mo Burness |
|The Nannie (George Melly)||John Scadding|
|Night (Harold Pinter)||Eve Moore |
|The Psychoanalyst (George Melly)||David Spackman|
|Permanence (Fay Weldon)||Noella Mills |
|The Doctor (George Melly)||Derek Cusdin|
|Countdown (Alan Ayckbourn)||Helena Whalley |
|The Union Official (George Melly)||Tim Mahoney|
|Silver Wedding (John Bowen)||Eve Moore |
|The Director (George Melly)||Clive Wilson|
|Resting Place (David Campton)||Helena Whalley |
|Stage Manager||Ken Ayling|
|Make-up||Pam Ayling |
|Sound Effects||A Devine|
There are 8 plays running at Havant's Bench Theatre this week - and each one reaches a high standard. "Mixed Doubles" is a mirror held up to marriage, a sequence of eight short plays reflecting all the moods and tribulations of the married state from the altar to the grave. There is the bored wife who, with her children now at school, finds time for an extra-marital fling, later to regret it with some fine low-keyed acting by Mo Burness and an amusing show of wounded pride by the lover Barry Reilly.
A couple on their silver wedding evening (Eve Moore and Derek Cusdin) look back on 25 years of married loneliness and the problems of sex after marriage. And down on a bench near the cemetery, two pensioners (Helena Whalley and David Spackman) dream away their last years with thoughts of cups of tea and kippers, and the forlorn hope of having an angel on a double gravestone.
Some welcome movement and action was presented with "Score" in which husband and wife tennis partners Di Lockyer and David Hill, play out their grudges and grievances in a match against an "off-stage couple" who have them beaten in life as in sport. In terms of the use of the stage, this must have been the most difficult script to handle. Special mention ought to go to Eve Moore and Tony Starr in "Night" who presented this piece of lyrical recollection with perfect control.
The plays are linked by eight witty monologues (written by George Melly), caricatures of the characters on the fringes of the drama of marriage - The Doctor (Derek Cusdin), The Nannie (a lovely piece of Barry Humphries-type character acting by John Scadding), and The Vicar (Tim Mahoney). Continuity could have been a problem, with as many as 16 changes of mood and theme in 2 hours. Producer Helena Whalley made sure it was never lost by using the minimum of props and a brisk stage team. The plays continue until October 16.
The News, 12th October 1971
Mixed Doubles, presented by Havant Theatre Union last week, might well be sub-titled, 8 Convincing Reasons For Staying Single. For as a look at marriage from 8 different angles, it's guaranteed to make the potential husband or wife stop and think again. Being a series of sketches - loosely linked by a series of monologues written by writer and jazz musician, George Melly - Mixed Doubles varied in quality, and some were more convincing than others.
David Spackman, Tim Mahoney, Tony Starr, and Helen Whalley, who was also producer, appeared most at home with this type of material - which gave them only minutes to settle in to and develop their roles. When their efforts were most successful the result was an uncomfortably honest exploration of some of the many kinds or erosion which can weaken a partnership. The taking for granted spotlighted in Permanence, by Fay Weldon, for example. The only woman contributor to the set gave us perhaps the only couple who earned real sympathy - co-habiting contentedly for 20 years until the day she broke her glasses on a camping holiday and found herself thinking and talking about their marriage instead of escaping in a book. Noella Mills played she, and Tony Starr he, and one felt that there was hope for them yet.
Not so, The ghastly pair in John Bowen's Silver Wedding, who in 25 years together had come to live a lie in an effort to last out to the point where, all dressed up for an evening out, they are forced to ask: "What on earth are we celebrating?". The best future Mixed Doubles can offer us is that of Resting Place - the old couple sitting in the cemetery meandering down their own lines of thought, occasionally coming together at the thought of kippers for tea. But then, what could be better than that? A fine touch of humour saved us from deep depression, and after all, tea for two is better than tea for one.