Play Festival off to good start

PUBLISHED: 11:17 04 July 2008 | UPDATED: 10:48 17 June 2010

The Owl and the Pussycat Charles Vance Company Manor Pavilion: The 2008 Charles Vance Summer Play Festival got off to a very good start at the Manor Pavilion Theatre with Sidmouth favourites James Pellow and Janette Froud skilfully presenting Bill Banhoff's amusing two hander comedy The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat Charles Vance Company Manor Pavilion: The 2008 Charles Vance Summer Play Festival got off to a very good start at the Manor Pavilion Theatre with Sidmouth favourites James Pellow and Janette Froud skilfully presenting Bill Banhoff's amusing two hander comedy The Owl and the Pussycat, under the capable and experienced direction of Imogen Vance.

Set in an apartment in San Francisco, this play bears no resemblance to Edward Lear's wonderful, whimsical tale The Owl and the Pussycat went to Sea, except that the two characters, F Sherman and Doris, have created their own fantasy characters and together go on a journey of discovery.

It is past midnight when F Sherman - book store clerk and would-be writer - opens his door to a very angry female. Doris storms in, calling her unwilling host various insulting names. She states that since it was his officious report to the landlord that got her evicted for taking paying gentlemen callers, she is now going to camp in his apartment.

The girl, as she describes herself, is a prostitute but not promiscuous. She insists that she is really an actress and a model - temporarily unemployed - and becomes hurt and angry when Sherman questions her respectability. Sherman is equally prone to self-delusion. He is a self-advertising intellectual, a poseur, whose counterfeit emotions and artificial images are amply reflected in his deservedly unsuccessful writing.

He is sexually attracted to the girl but professes to admire her dormant intelligence. Their exchanges are turbulent and very funny.

Generally speaking, I am not enamoured with small cast plays, preferring productions with several contrasting characters, but James and Janette coped admirably well with their demanding marathon roles, holding the audience's attention and causing great amusement.

James was in fine form as the intellectually pretentious and smug Felix (his real name was Fred) Sherman and gained maximum effect with his impeccable delivery. Their indecision over his bitter-sweet relationship with Doris was pleasingly portrayed. I particularly enjoyed his attack on the binoculars which he had used to discover neighbour Doris and her illegal activities.

A strong performance came from Janette, who made a lively and attractive Doris. She was easily excitable, especially when she could not understand, but also quite warm-hearted; sturdy at times yet vulnerable at others. When angry, her voice became shrill ,which made for good characterisation but also made it more difficult to catch the actual words.

By the end of the play, both F Sherman and Doris had gained a valuable trust in each other and their journey together saw them discover a wry knowledge of themselves.

Roger Simmonds

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