PRO versus AM|
Linda Kirkman comments on an unique event.
A licence for an amateur company to produce a play when a professional version is being aired are as rare as a barmaid marrying a millionaire. It was consequently quite astounding when the Little Theatre were granted a licence to perform Absurd Person Singular at the time when a professional company were performing the Ayckbourne's play at the Pier Theatre. Linda Kirkman saw both shows and took advantage of this unique occasion to make some interesting comparisons.
Having spent many years proclaiming the fact that, in my opinion, the best amateur shows are as good as some professional ones, how could I resist the opportunity to compare Bournemouth Little Theatre Club's production of Alan Ayckbourne's Absurd Person Singular with the professional version of the same play that was in the final week of its Summer Season at Bournemouth's Pier Theatre.
At the Pier there was no doubting the play's setting, with carols playing in the auditorium and a foyer filled with illuminated snowmen and Christmas trees - in total contrast to BLTC, who appeared to have gone out of their way NOT to stress the season. However, BLTC's other props complemented the script in ways not always obvious at the Pier.
Set-wise BLTC certainly scored with the ingenious idea of having three completely different 'kitchens' with one, set in a high-rise apartment, actually built in a platform above the stage, as opposed to the Pier's use of one basic framework, but with a variety of props to ring the changes.
The productions themselves differed considerably, with the amateur version focussing as much on the poignancy of the script as the comedy, and with disturbingly true to life characters, whereas I felt that at the Pier the show was being played largely for laughs - perhaps inevitably in a seaside summer season.
Possibly the most obvious difference in the two productions should have been in the performances. The Pier version featured Soap stars but they all have considerable theatre experience, and most were trained at well-known drama schools, whereas at the BTLC the performers are experienced but with little or no professional training. Yet I can truly say that there was no discernible difference at all, save that on the Pier the actors appeared to have adopted the technique of playing to the 'fourth wall'.
My verdict? Both thoroughly enjoyable, but which you'd prefer depends on what you expect from an Ayckbourne play.
LINDA KIRKMAN (Courtesy of Bournemouth Daily Echo, by way of the Bournemouth Little Theatre News)