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GamePlan, Hen and Chickens Theatre

Alan Ayckbourn

Directed by Lucy Bull
★★
Pros: A really enjoyable performance by Nicola Bland brings life to this performance of Ayckbourn’s black comedy. There is some clever use of the simple set.
Cons: There is a lack of comic timing, the laughs are sporadic and the action can be a little forced. Some weak performances leave the production feeling flat.
Our Verdict: Black comedy relies on crisp delivery of one liners, puns and visual humour to bring enjoyable laughs to the bleak plot. This is an ambitious ask, and unfortunately on this occasion, the timing just wasn’t right.
Courtesy of Post-It Productions
GamePlan is a the story of Sorrell, a teenage girl whose father has ruined the family’s million pound business, and run off with her mother’s best friend, leaving them penniless. Sorrell’s mother, Lynette, has taken a cleaning job and is preparing to move out of their swanky Thames side apartment to somewhere they can afford. Sorrell turns to prostitution in order to earn the money to save the situation. She ropes in her mate Kelly and the two embark on a series of misadventures which compound each other, both of them narrowly escaping a life changing fate.
So, it is clearly not a cheery plot, which means that to get this comedy really warmed up a raft of one liners and visual gags are required and the delivery needs a strong sense of comic timing. Post-It Productions give this ambitious task a really good shot and there are some commendable performances. Nicola Bland is brilliantly funny as Sorrell’s friend Kelly. She is totally convincing as an awkward, inexperienced teenager and she has wonderful comic delivery, never failing to get laughs. Bland really steals the show, in particular during the scene where the ‘client’ is visiting, as her behaviour is full of hilarious nuance. Elaine Harry as Lynette presents a credible mother to Sorrell, quietly resigned to the predicament she finds her family in. Harry lacks dramatic impact and feels a little reticent, but this works well in this scenario. Stacey Bland as Sorrell is energetic and committed in the central role, however I feel she skims the surface of what is possible from this character, with so much potential for dynamic humour.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast really do not achieve the strong comic timing required to pull off this black comedy. Jethro Dykes as Sorrell’s client Leo, races through his lines as though he might forget them at any minute. Sam South hams up the detective, Dan, a bit too much and is rather nondescript as the reporter, Troy. Rachel Jackson plays the other half of the police duo, Grace, quoting the bible unclearly and without relevance – she doesn’t appear to understand the character and falls short of conviction in the role. There is a lack of rapport among the troupe and they don’t seem to gel fully. There is some really good direction and use of the stage, however, farcical aspects of the action feel forced and unnatural, so the laughs are few and far between.
This is a very ambitious production as it relies so heavily on comically skilled actors to make it work. Though there are some enjoyable aspects in this play, on this occasion the performances didn’t quite deliver.
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GamePlan has now finished its run at the Hen and Chickens Theatre. For more information, follow Post-It Productions on twitter.

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