Lifestyle editor Joanne Rothery takes a look at the latest offering from the Arundel Players:
I was rather dubious about whether I would really enjoy this bittersweet comedy set in a retirement home, but any doubts were quickly dispelled in the first few minutes of act one, thanks to the brilliant opening verbal exchange between bossy and insensitive matron Mrs Winstanley (Rosey Purchase) and George Fairbrother (Roger Booth) as the staid retired major who arrives at the home and is stunned to find that far from enjoying the luxury of a private room, he is to share for several weeks until one becomes available.
But worse is to come for the upright and ultra-polite gentleman when he discovers his room-mate is the home’s ‘rough diamond’, ‘Wally’ Wallis (Mike Wells), a character whose personal habits and total disregard for authority leave a lot to be desired.
In fact, the excellent dialogue continues throughout the play - witty and amusing one moment, poignant and touching the next.
And the four-strong cast gel perfectly, with the matron, George and Wally joined by May (Blanche Robinson), an elderly widow who not only retains an air of friskiness but also a determination to maintain a say in the decline of her dignity as old age takes its toll
Wally and George in particular are perfect foils for one another - chalk and cheese personalities thrown together and obliged to share a confined space. the inevitable conflicts are exacerbated by the fact George is taking the place of Potts, Wally’s room-mate and who has just died suddenly, leaving his friend shocked and devastated by the loss of the one person he has ever been really close to.
Eventually they achieve a level of understanding - the hornpipe sequence where George is persuaded to enjoy a tipple or two and he and Wally strut their stuff is absolutely hilarious.
Equally impressive is the tender moment Wally and May share in the garden - sad and touching yet offering hope for the future.
The play is sensitively acted and beautifully staged from start to finish, complemented by an excellent set design by Allan Farrow and Michale Nott’s talents at skilfully lighting a stage cleverly divided into three component parts.
The last few minutes, as Wally prepares to set off and make the most of the rest of his life, are really first-class, a fitting finale to a gentle and amusing tale directed extremely well by Margaret Mason.
* Two of a Kind by the Arundel Players is on at the Priory Playhouse, Arundel, until Saturday, June 16