The logo for Frinton Summer Theatre
The logo for Frinton Summer Theatre
It must have seemed such a brilliant idea, on paper. A new show with a storyline straight out of pre-"Hair" musical comedy acting as the framework for some of the best-loved numbers by Nöel Coward and Cole Porter to be performed by a minimal cast. The trouble is that, when it comes to theatre, theory does not necessarily translate into practice.

The book, in musical parlance, for "The Cowardly Porter" is by Jon Canter. The title character is a grizzled elderly retainer, just about all the staff left to the last members of a decayed aristocratic family. Their stately home is as dilapidated as they are, relying on tourists to keep what's left of the roof over their heads (pace the National Trust).

All the hit numbers punctuate the flash-back story, beginning with "The stately homes of England", taking in "Mad dogs and Englishmen", "Good/bad times are just around the corner" and "Don't put your daughter on the stage"as well as "I've got you under my skin", "Who wants to be a millionaire?" and "Anything goes" along the way. There's a running joke about apples for good measure.

Oliver Mawdsley, who toots a mean tuba and steps it featly as well as putting over as much character as the plot allows, is our titular hero. Catherine Henderson transforms herself from demure parlourmaid to Broadway star to fading châtelaine with ease; she points a lyric very well. Clive Brill is both of the bumbling fumbling brothers who inherit the house and captured most of the first night audience's laughs.

This première production for Pacificus Productions at the Frinton Summer Theatre is staged by Frinton's artistic director Edward Max. The musical director, not always in synch with the actors, is Ross Hughes.