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Boundary Players - Improbable Fiction

12th to 16th February 2013.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Writers unblocked

Boundary Players: Improbable Fiction, at the William Penney Theatre, Tadley from Tuesday, February 12 to Saturday, February 16

Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Improbable Fiction is a play of two very different halves.

It opens with mild-mannered Arnold preparing his sitting room for a writers' circle meeting. As each member of the circle arrives, it soon becomes clear that they are all searching for inspiration in their chosen field of writing - historical romance, children's stories, crime fiction, sci-fi, musicals and factual information.

The first act revolves around the would-be writers' self-delusion and frustration, both with themselves and each other, but as the act closes and the writers return home, Arnold is plunged into the imaginations of the other authors, and becomes embroiled in an intricate confusion of scenes which continues through the latter half of the performance.

This is a strong formula for a play, as Boundary Players - under director Pat Archer (assisted by Ann Bleloch) and producers Andy and Julie Abbott - ably demonstrated last week at the William Penney Theatre.

One drawback with the plot is that the first act is quite static and relies on the cast to develop their characters and personal quirks in preparation for act two. For me, the pace was a little hesitant initially but picked up towards the interval, and the cast tackled the second half of the play with great gusto. Chris Nunn gave an engaging performance as Arnold, as he was thrown acceptingly from one storyline to another. Dave Stephenson as Clem the sci-fi writer clearly enjoyed each of his contrasting roles, from the overbearing detective to the evil Dudley in the historical drama. Steve Schollar was outstanding as the grumpy Brevis in act one, as well as the doctor and alien hunter in act two.

I particularly liked Alice Grundy's transition from cynical farmer Jess in act one, to the coy narrator in the historical romance, while Claire Humphreys was charming as Isla, Arnold's devoted friend and helper. Sam Walker provided a convincing and lively performance as clich├ęd crime writer Viwi, with some amusing scenes in act two, while Davina Harris seemed at home with the role of the children's writer Grace.

A very enjoyable comedy with some surprising twists - congratulations to all.

MARK LILLYCROP