Pools Paradise (tour – Stevenage)
An actress marrying a man of the cloth is one thing, esoecially when she's the bishop's niece. The vicar's wife indulging in gambling is something altogether different. Can winning the football pools – remember that £20,000 then equates to a million or so now – be a blessing in disguise? Ian Dickens's production throws the seven diverse characters straight at the conundrum.
David Callister is Lionel Toop, the vicar in question. His timing is excellent, letting the laughs come from the increasingly tricky situations in which Toop finds himself, not really understanding completely what is whirling all around him. Sinead O'Keeffe is Penolope; you can believe in her as a former stage star, doing her best to fit in with village life but not quite mastering all the nuances of her new role.
Most of the fun should come from the three parishioners who interfere in various ways. Helen Jeckells has the easiest part as Miss Skillon, the local spinster with a talent for poking her nose into everything before it. Ida (Julia Main) is the vicarage maid, accident rone about the house but quite clear-sighted as far as her boy friend Willie (Frankie Fitzgerald) is concerned. He, incidentally, is the football poools expert. Everyone talks very quickly, too much so at times for clarity of diction, but it doesn't assist the dramatic flow.
Newcomers charging headfirst into the chaos are a young stand-in clergyman – David Janson as Arthur Humphrey – and then the bishop himself – Ben Roberts. Both flap engagingly enough across David North's set, which is well equipped with doors and a staircase but without that air of fading shabbiness it should project. It's not the best of the King farcical comedies but might emerge brighter in a tauter production, perhaps one which placs more emphasis on the fast-approaching Christmas season.