The sun shines, tourists are soaking up the staycations and summer theatre season has returned to Suffolk. Theatre, even in post pandemic times, still face many challenges so all credit to ACT (Aldeburgh Classic Theatre) for reinstating summer repertory theatre in Southwold. An entertaining range of productions rolls on through the summer months.
A range of plays have alternated between Aldeburgh and Southwold. It was a delight to catch I Ought to Be in Pictures by Neil Simon is playing at the Southwold Arts Centre to very appreciative audiences. Neil Simon’s 1980 Broadway hit rattles along with witty dialogue and sizzling one-liners that allow the wisecracking New York jibes from Brooklyn meet the laid back reposts of California. Herb is a struggling screenwriter in LA, enjoying a friendship-with-benefits kind of relationship with a movie makeup artist, Steffy and both are surprised by the arrival of Herb’s long abandoned teenage daughter, Libby. She has hitched across much of America to not only build a relationship with her estranged dad but to also to become a movie actress.
Julian Harris plays Herb Tucker with all the anxiety of an absent father uprooted to LA and cast adrift in movie-land. He sways from barbs and compliments to self-examination as he struggles with his commitment issues. However, Harris keeps us all on board with his deft performance. Despite it all he is likeable, affable and seems willing to stop running from responsibility and give it a go, and in this sense of release he shifts the writer’s block. Harris has a delivery that is pointed and does justice to his firecracker lines as he lolls from acceptance to rejection in the blink of an eye. His long-suffering girlfriend, Steffy, is thoughtful, patient and wise. The part is in the very capable hands of Ashleigh Sendin delivers a performance that is clever and delightful, as she rolls off quips, quibbles and questions with elan and a dose of LA sophistication. Rosalind Burt played Libby Tucker, the needy daughter who shores up her insecurities by oozing confidence as she seeks to build emotional bridges with Herb, a man she knows only through memory and hearsay. She longs to be held but doesn’t want to be constrained and with Burt’s fast-talking smart-Alec delivery she challenges and moves us in equal measure. Burt delivers a performance of some complexity as she seeks family only to realise that what she had left behind is the very thing she was looking for. However, in the journey, she manages to bring the past into the present as she awakens bonds and connections and here Simon’s play is both funny and so touching as he explores the complex needs of a fractured family reuniting.
Directed by Fiona McAlpine with verve and vitality. McAlpine manages to skilfully capture the heart of the piece as it switches from pathos to bathos with a look, intonation or raised eyebrow. The production has pace and a sharpness that allows the wit and comic exchanges of Simon’s dialogue to breathe and crackle with delight and judging from the audience reaction McApline has served the play well as it delightfully fizzes along.
This production transferred from Aldeburgh to the Southwold Arts Centre and is part of their summer repertory season, see their website for further details – a season that will round off your Suffolk staycation!
Director – Fiona McAlpine
Company – Ashleigh Sendin , Rosalind Burt, Julian Harris