Pros: Classic farce format; funny because we all recognise people like these and maybe carry some of these views ourselves.
Cons: The swings between polite good manners and honest prejudices was a little too sharp and often with no apparent trigger for the turnaround.
This was my first visit to the Canal Café Theatre above the Bridge House Pub in Little Venice, but I’m always delighted to seek out new performance spaces, so was looking forward to the show. I don’t know if the layout is always arranged as cabaret-style tables but I felt this was a little chaotic and possibly not the best use of space. It can work brilliantly for some productions such as ‘Cabaret’ etc, but seemed a little inhibiting in this case.
A traditional farce in all respects, Blame It on the Neighbours centres on a dispute between two neighbouring couples in parochial Middle England. A young couple have recently moved in with their dog, Sir Winston Churchill, and his toilet habits have upset the mature, long term residents, Mr and Mrs Hancock (with a silent ‘c’). We are immediately and firmly placed in Hyacinth Bucket/Bouquet territory.
The older couple have invited their new neighbours over to discuss the poo problem. A raging storm maroons everyone together as they try to sort out their differences. What begins as polite and diplomatic conversation soon disintegrates as alcohol loosens everyone’s tongues and true feelings rise to the surface.
The writing relies heavily on the two women to lead the way through the laughs, and both Lowenna Melrose as Anita and Astrid Maslen as Charmaine rise to the challenge. There were occasions when lines appeared to elude the players, but for a one-off performance this is easily forgiven in such a dialogue-heavy play. Michael Dobby, who portrays Edward and Stefan Holland as Stacey provided good back-up and, in art as in life (?!) kowtowed to their women’s orders.
The only real issue I had was that the tables kept turning wildly. One minute everyone was on best behaviour and the next minute, insults were being hurled. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to what provoked the about-turns, and it seemed almost bi-polar at times so sudden were the mood changes.
All in all in, Blame It on the Neighbours isn’t ground breaking territory, still it certainly makes for a pleasant and entertaining evening. Think ‘Carnage’ spliced with Alan Ayckbourn. It covers lots of common prejudices – property developers, white van man, petty-minded local committees, posh horsey folk, etc. It’s all familiar and comfortable comedy because we all know people like these, and it’s throroughly comforting to see these types in the most ridiculous of situations on stage.
Author: Matt Shepherd
Director: Matt Shepherd
Producer: Sheppard Bros Writing & Pip Brignall
Booking Until: this was a one-off performance
Booking Link: For future events see http://www.canalcafetheatre.com