Tag Archives: Ron Aldridge

Dead Boring

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 25th July, 2012

Ron Aldridge’s new play deviates, but not very far, from his usual output. There is the middle-class setting you would expect and a bunch of well-spoken middle-class characters, and a humorous (largely sarcastic) tinge to the dialogue, but the aim of the show is something different. This is a supernatural psychological thriller. Or something. I don’t know.

It is so uneven in tone you can’t tell what it’s supposed to be. You quickly discover you don’t care.

It begins in the hideous lavender bedroom of the protagonist’s mistress. He (Peter Amory) is on the phone to her – he has been cleared of all suspicion of murder and is in the mood to celebrate. As he makes lovey-dovey sounds on the phone, a woman in black (hah!) shows up, making obvious signs of distaste at every sweet nothing she overhears. This is his wife (Joanne Heywood) or rather his ex-wife or rather (and you work this out in seconds flat) his late wife. She is a ghost on a campaign of nagging, cajoling and even seducing the truth out of him. That she is tangible and very obviously a physical presence is glossed over by some nonsense.

The mistress (Nicola Weeks) comes home and wants to have her way with the confused and distracted Amory. Meanwhile he is repeatedly grabbed by the goolies by the ghoul, who mocks him for his inability to perform. The ‘adult’ nature of the scene is just embarrassing. Imagine Fifty Shades of Grey enacted by the parish council.

The first act closes with the surprise arrival of a second ghost (Nick Ricketts) looking like Timothy Claypole – if he had been an accountant or a supply teacher rather than a court jester – entering through the bed – a trick seen before in Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein. Yawn.

This is the ghost of the girlfriend’s brother. It is a spirited performance by Ricketts but he has to chew through great swathes of exposition, describing the kind of afterlife that is rife with management-speak and pop psychology bullshit. The ghosts have come back to help the murderer process his crimes – this is a twist on the usual trope of ghost stories where it is the revenant that has unfinished business. Trouble is, the new age, pseudo professional manner of the ghost denies him any chance of instilling fear or eliciting pity.

Through a series of regressions, he forces Amory to relive key scenes from the past. He mimes pulling off a doll’s head. Because he got away with this terrible act, the ghost reasons, he was prompted to move on to do it again. We see Amory tangle with Ricketts in a cliff top quarrel (on the bed) resulting in the death of Ricketts. Meanwhile, the dead wife has found she can sort of communicate with the mistress. If she says Bloody Hell, then the mistress says Bloody Hell.

It really is a tortuous load of old tripe, weighed down by its own bollocks. Repeated mention of ‘contradictory impulse syndrome’, ‘bringing information forward’ and the ‘essence of knowledge’ sent shudders down my spine, strangling any chance this production has of creating atmosphere. As an examination of the psychological effects of murder on the murderer, it seems trite and obvious. How I longed for Banquo’s Ghost or indeed any scene from Macbeth, Shakespeare’s exploration of the same theme without recourse to buzz words and jargon.

The cast keep it going earnestly enough but their belief in the convoluted rubbish doesn’t transmit to the audience. None of the revelations surprises. None of the characters is sympathetic enough to make you give a fig about the unsurprising outcome.

A real disappointment – when done properly, scary plays work better than scary films.

There’s Life in the Old Dog yet

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 11th July, 2012

Ron Aldridge’s comedy is set firmly in the middle class sitcom world familiar from so many TV shows. You wouldn’t be surprised to find Terry and June living next door or George and Mildred across the road. It begins with a husband and wife arguing about someone always being out late, never getting up in the mornings, hanging out with bad company – we are led to believe they have a wayward teenager on their hands. At last, the delinquent in question finds his way home, dancing his way through the front door in motorcycle leathers. He takes off his helmet and lo! It’s not a teenager after all. ‘Tis Melvyn Hayes no less – the wife’s father. This nifty twist led me to think this was going to be a play that touches on issues of caring for the elderly – the tensions that may arise when they move in with their offspring, and the alternatives that are available.

Unfortunately not.

The play is too rooted in its sitcom milieu to glance at social issues and so my expectations, once excited were confounded. That is not to say this is not an enjoyable couple of hours. It does what it does rather well.

Brooksie (Hayes) fills his daughter’s house with friends from the Over 60s club. Preparations are underway for the wedding of two of the members and so Brooksie and the more uptight Rose (Katy Manning off of Doctor Who) have to declare a moratorium on their bickering and squabbling. The irony is that these two are obviously more attracted to each other than the bride and groom to be.

Hayes throws himself into the performance. He falls over, rolls off the sofa and generally bounds around in a manner that is exhausting to behold. It is a star turn that belies his years, well befitting the theme of the play: old age is there to be enjoyed. Katy Manning provides capable support, even if her character is berating him one second and then giggling her head off at him the next. It is an inconsistency in the writing. I could also have done without the mawkish scenes where the ghost of Brooksie’s wife appears to him with life coaching advice. Such a saintly, condescending woman. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bumped her off. Hayes would be able to convey the pathos and the heartbreak with the occasional look at her photograph. That would have been enough.

There is a very funny scene where the gang play Trivial Pursuit and a sliced bread fight that seems a little incongruous but is amusing, nevertheless. John D Collins is boisterous good fun as grumpy old ranter Tom who goes through an epiphany on his stag night but the show is essentially a vehicle for Melvyn Hayes, who does bewildered and hungover to perfection.