The Mill at Sonning
0118 969 8000
Sonning Eye, Reading, RG4 6TY.
Improbable Fiction, 16th March to 6th May
'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house sat six members of Pendon Writers’ Circle. All suffering the same predicament - Writer’s block! Jess writes bodice rippers. Grace creates children’s stories. Vivvi has completed her 6th crime novel – unpublished of course! Clem is a sci-fi fanatic. Brevis is adapting The Pilgrim’s Progress into – wait for it – a musical! “You’ve got your imagination, haven’t you? To fall back on? You can make up worlds of your own, can’t you?” declares Arnold, the group’s chairman. Let’s pool our ideas, he says, and create a joint work. Oh no! No! Can’t do that, is the stubborn reaction from the non-writing writers. Definitely not! Until - in the best corny tradition of thrillers - a raging storm ensues. A dramatic clap of thunder strikes. And all the various fictions of the wannabe writers’ spring startlingly and vividly to life. Hold onto your hats as this hilarious comedy zigzags from Victorian melodrama, to 1930’s detective cliff hanger, to extreme science fiction fantasy – with a touch of Sid the Squirrel thrown in! Result? A side-splitting thoroughly bonkers example of what can happen when you let Alan Ayckbourn’s imagination run riot. See the review below.
Don’t Dress for Dinner, 11th May to 1st July
With his wife out of town, an alibi from his best friend Robert, and Suzette, a Cordon Bleu cook, lined up to prepare gourmet delights, debonair Bernard thinks he’s planned the perfect romantic weekend for his glamorous French mistress, Suzanne. But when Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline, hears that Robert - ooh, la, la - is visiting for the weekend, she decides to stick around for a surprise tryst of her own. Setting the stage for a side-splitting collision course of mistaken identities. Suzanne becomes the cook, Suzette becomes the lover, the friend is bewildered, the wife is suspicious and an evening of hilarious confusion ensues as Bernard and Robert improvise at breakneck speed.
Spider's Web, 6th July to 26th August
"Suppose I were to come downstairs one morning and find a dead body lying here, what would I do?" wonders Clarissa. And lo and behold, as is the way with all good Agatha Christie thrillers, she soon finds out. Clarissa has a vivid imagination but not even she could be prepared for the moment she stumbles upon a bloody corpse. Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband comes home with an important foreign politician - a man on his way to secret talks at 10 Downing Street! - Clarissa persuades her three house guests to become accessories and accomplices. But then the web of deceit becomes even more tangled as a mysterious phone-call tips off the police and brings the determined Inspector Lord to the scene. Clarissa soon realises he is convinced that one of them is the killer and finds her talent for storytelling put to the test as she fights to keep her friends and family from suspicion. At the same time her own life is in dire danger as the search for the real murderer comes closer and closer to being revealed. Arguably Agatha Christie’s most enthralling and entertaining thriller.
Review of Improbable Fiction
16th March to 6th May 2017.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Improbable Fiction, at The Mill at Sonning, from Thursday, March 16, to Saturday, May 6
Although Alan Ayckbourn has written serious drama, often interspersed with surface comedy, many of us prefer the straight-ahead slapstick and comic capers that make up much of his output. This play, his 69th, is firmly in the latter category.
The action concerns six members of a writers circle and their chairman, the gentle, encouraging Arnold, played sympathetically by Andrew Bone. None of the other six have managed to find success and are currently suffering writer's block.
Sarah Lawrie plays Viwi, who has completed six unpublished crime novels, while Angela Sims as Grace produces children's stories, except she hasn't actually written a word of the story she tells her friends about.
Jess, neatly underplayed at first by Julie Teal, writes Victorian melodrama bodice-rippers, when she gets to write anything at all. Ben Porter as Clem is a writer of turgid sci-fi yarns, where the characters often use the wrong descriptive words. Laurence Kennedy gave a bright, slightly over the top portrayal of Brevis Winterton, but then what choice did he have playing a man who is adapting The Pilgrim's Progress into – I kid you not – a musical? Rhiannon Handy was suitably scatty and somewhat nervous as Ilsa, a minder who comes hi to look after Arnold's bedridden mother.
Comedy in the first-half meeting of these folks is sporadic, but it soon explodes into hilarious farce in act two, as the characters in the various half-written yarns come to life and act out their bad dialogue, improbable narratives in front of the startled Arnold. This gives the rest of the cast a chance to go over the top outrageously and they do, of course.
Mild little Ilsa becomes a flirtatious Victorian maid, Bombastic Brevis hams it up as a Space Alien hunter spouting wrong words all over the place and Jess becomes a purple prose narrator. Perhaps best of all, Clem becomes a PD James-type old-style detective, spouting poetry and producing a voice much like actor Edward Fox. Viwi becomes his downtrodden sergeant. When someone is described as 'stealing, drinking and whoring' but 'he has his good side', we know we are in vintage Ayckbourn territory. Neatly-paced and choreographed by director Robin Herford, this play, first produced in Scarborough in 2005 is one of Ayckbourn's best, played to the hilt for laughs by this cast.
For more details
see the Mill's web site at www.millatsonning.com.
Reviews in the Archive
Dead Simple (January 2017)
High Society (November 2016)
The Hollow (July 2016)
Last of the Red Hot Lovers (March 2016)
The Perfect Murder (January 2016)
Stepping Out (November 2015)
Round and Round the Garden (October 2015)
Love, Loss, and What I Wore (August 2015)
Killjoy (May 2015)
Educating Rita (January 2015)
Last Confessions of a Scallywag (July 2014)