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Bedlamb's triumphant return is well worth a visit


Review by Paul Nelson

NOT to be missed is the triple bill at the Baron's Court Theatre, presented by Bedlamb Theatre.

I have to warn you it is a bit of a pill to swallow, the first of the three plays, Me and My Friend, is an unnecessary hour and a half long.

It is a play about the need for friendship, and is played out by four recently care in the community 'victims', released for their own good and rehab, which anyone who lives near one of these children of experiments will instantly recognise.

I have to say the words I use about this shrugging off of responsibility for the mentally ill are words I have chosen carefully.

They are still unwell, they desperately need help and treatment and it is all too easy to simply move them out of an asylum, stick them in a house with one responsible person, and file their cases as satisfactorily closed.

For the astute playgoer, the message transmits itself to the audience at least 20 minutes before the end of the piece, and it comes as no surprise that Robin has been responsible for a murder, Julia probably a sexual assault (at the very least the fear of one), Oz a sexual sicko with never a relationship and, therefore, expecting sex at every corner, and, by contrast, Bunny, a comparatively uncomplicated schizophrenic.

Little wonder suicide appears to be a viable exit.

The play gives four actors a great opportunity and, for the most part, they grasp it with vigour and truth, but the shortcomings of the writer eventually trap them into a series of expected vignettes that could be transposed into any play worthy of the name.

Wanda's Visit, on the other hand, is a play written by a very sharp pen. Jim and Marsha have been happily married for 13 years (is that a portent I see?) and to Jim's surprise and initial delight, Wanda, a girl he knew in high school and college, descends on them for dinner.

To begin with she is unrecognisable, she is now a blonde. She is so over the top that her exuberant personality, so attractive at school, is now stifling.

She has had this lifted and that liposucked, this dyed and that plucked. She even brags that her second husband gave her vaginal herpes, and when she gave it to a further partner and was accused of not telling him she replies, 'I have a nose on my face, I didn't tell you I had that either'.

To Marsha's surprise and dismay she is staying (at least for the night) and like the man who came to dinner, she upsets the apple cart.

It is a very funny play, a farce (thank the gods, I didn't think they were possible any more) and gives a super chance for a performance for the actress who plays Wanda.

In this case the actress seizes the opportunity with more gusto than blew down all the trees in all the hurricanes in the last hundred years and you will die laughing.

The scene in the restaurant, where the waiter is waiting to be discovered and heralded as a star is hilarious and the end, in true farcical fashion, is brilliantly funny.

The excitement of seeing young people play this kind of comic performance is something I want everyone to witness. Wayne Gidden, Geraldine Cottalorda, Kristin Kerwin and Asif Channa (who also directs) are uniformly perfect.

Due to deadlines I had to forego the third play, The King and Me, by Hanif Kureishi, but will cover it separately next week.

I must say I can hardly wait to see it, as I am a fan of the director (even though I do not know him I do know his work), and on the basis of these two examples, I have to say I am drooling to see part three of Bedlamb's excursion into what could be called multi-entertainment.

All hail on this showing to Bedlamb Theatre. Take a night off whatever you have planned and catch this truly exciting company.

Me and Friend by Gillian Plowman, Directed by Mike Stewart WITH: Dermot Dolan (Bunny), Joe Clark (Oz), Kim Sanger White (Robin) and Valerie Zdyb (Julia).
Wanda's Visit by Christopher Durang, Directed by Asif Channa WITH: Wayne Gidden (Jim), Geraldine Cottalorda (Marsha), Kristin Kerwin (Wanda), and Asif Channa (The Waiter).
The King and Me by Hanif Kureishi, Directed by Chris Thomas WITH: Rudi Symons (Marie), Pauline Walters (Nicola), Asif Channa (M.C.).
Lighting and Design Don Atherton, Sound Design Rob Widdicomb, presented by Bedlamb Theatre Company at the Baron's Court Theatre, The Curtain's Up, 28A Comeragh Road, London W14. Tickets 020 8932 4747.

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