Cracked up . Courts triumph in London

“Safe” written and directed by Luke Coldham

Thurrock Courts Players

Take one delightful homely theatre, use a cleverly crafted script then add three experienced actors and you are in for a cracking evening. And the safe they are trying to crack is the central theme of Luke Coldham’s new one act play which opened last night at the wonderful Canal Cafe Theatre in London’s Little Venice. This was an unusual venture for Thurrock Courts Players to perform away from the Borough but after three nights here it moves for a week’s run at the daunting Edinburgh festival in the summer.

Tom (Vic Gray), Dick (Martyn Williams) and Harry (John Scowen) are three bank robbers who find themselves in a bank vault when the door slams behind them and shuts them inside without hope of release for the next twelve hours. Except there isn’t just three of them – Harry has at least 27 other personalities, Dick has an imaginary friend and Tom has Tourettes. The next hour sees the trio go through a whole range of emotions from high comedy to utter despair. We are treated to a unique version of “I could have danced all night” as Harry’s musical side comes to life.

Resembling the Three Stooges and adding a little Morecambe and Wise plus a touch of Python and the recipe for laughter is guaranteed. John Scowen knows how to use his face and boy does he use it well. From a wistful glance to the audience to an almost full gurn, he delights and entertains with ease. Martyn Williams reminded me of a rough John Le Mesurier. I loved this performance from Martyn whose sense of timing was just perfect. His character’s uselessness came over very strongly and you could see the frustration from his two sidekicks. Vic Gray sweated and swore and mumbled and cursed and got on his compatriots’ nerves. He was the Del Boy of the trio and, of course, nothing ever worked out quite right. His Tourettes meant that instead of swearing on occasion he uttered the name of Margaret Thatcher. It wasn’t a cruel sense of timing. The lines had been written long ago. If anything I would have liked to see more of this. It was a pleasure to see such accomplished work from these three seasoned actors and they triumphed in spades.

Luke’s play goes through a roller coaster of emotions from outright laughter to bittersweet tragedy. There are some terrible, unforgivable jokes in the script and the play is all the better for it. The dialogue is pacy and clever and you would think it was from the pen of a far more experienced author. There are small faults but this was a first night and that’s to be expected. This work goes to Edinburgh in the summer and with some small tweaks, i.e. a much better safe door, it should do really well. Your Thurrock will be seeing this again in Edinburgh and if the performances are anything like the London gigs then it should be very popular.
“Safe” is at the Canal Theatre Café Little Venice tonight and tomorrow.

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