Rumours at the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth

“Rumours” is an adaptation of “Rumors” – a 1988 farce by veteran American playwright Neil Simon who is noted for “The Odd Couple”, “Barefoot In The Park” and “The Sunshine Boys” among many others.

“Rumours” or “Rumors” (with me so far?) is a fairly typical Simon play – farcical, slapstick and extremely funny.  This particular production introduced me to the word “Fuckarani”.  I like it and want to use it more often in conversation.

This production was an Anglicised production of the play, reset in Britain in 2017.  In the original play, Charlie Brock is the Deputy Mayor of New York but in this version, he is a top Government Minister. Other characters in this version of the play include a close acquaintance of Theresa May and a Conservative parliamentary candidate for a Brighton based constituency.

The play centres around a dinner party to mark the 10th wedding anniversary of Charlie Brock and his wife Vivian. To say that said party didn’t go according to plan is a giant understatement. The kitchen staff are nowhere to be seen. Charlie has shot himself in the head (it’s not immediately apparent whether said anniversary prompted him to do this). Thankfully the bullet only penetrated Brock’s earlobe as he had taken some Valium and fallen asleep, consequently missing his head as he fired the gun.

The plot continues to descend into pure farce and features a couple involved in a car crash, a crystal being dropped down the toilet, back spasms, tripping over telephone wires, alleged adultery and party guest Ken Gorman, who tries to take the gun away from Charlie and ends up tripping and firing the gun at his own head, resulting in the most hilarious deafness

The second act starts with the ending of the dinner party and the Cusacks and Coopers being told the entire story and the subsequent blaming of the whole situation on Ken. During a burst of “La Bamba” and some very impressive “dad dancing” from psychologist Ernest Cusack, (played by Priory veteran and brilliant comic actor Kevin Coughlan) the guests get a visit from The Police who were investigating the car accident involving guests Lenny and Claire. Naturally the guests assume they are there to investigate the gunshots.
The subsequent confusion and events that then ensue, result in the Police Officers Ray Arber & Khayati Patel) leaving due to pure exasperation and bafflement but just as they are leaving, the gunshot situation is accidentally revealed.

What follows is the most surreal monologue as one of the guests attempts to “explain everything”.  The Police officers then leave the house even more baffled than they had been a few moments previously.  The guests, feeling thoroughly relieved at their escape begin to amble upstairs to get a full explanation form Charlie about the shooting but are delayed when an incredible development occurs in the basement.

What particularly struck me about this spectacular production was that it was all perform by amateur actors, all of whom turned in better performances than many I have seen a professional actor carry off.

The timing was immaculate and it was incredibly fast paced, anarchic and incredibly slick.  It was clear to me that the cast had had great fun rehearsing and were having a lot of fun performing.

As director Chris Sharpe has said “Farce is not always easy to perfect but the cast have embraced this script with great gusto. We have had plenty of fun in rehearsals and promise a slick journey from the sublime to ridiculous as we present Neil Simon at his very best.”

Mission most certainly accomplished Chris.

I’ve attended quite a few performances at the Priory Theatre and they have of been of a consistently high standard.  The Priory is entirely run by volunteers and with that in mind it is really quite in staggering that these actors, the front of house staff etc do this in their spare time and are not professionals.  The amateurism is anything but apparent.

I look forward, hopefully, to more farcical frolics and indeed productions of any kind at the Priory in the future.


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