Friday, December 2

Friday the 13th – Rainhill Village Hall

Having set up Individuality Youth some eighteen months ago, producer Samantha Moores turns her attention to an older audience with this tragi-comedy from renowned French playwright Jean-Pierre Martinez, translated by Anne-Christine Gasc, and directed by Michèle Martin.

John (Phil Halfpenny) and Christine (Moores) have invited two of their friends for dinner in their Liverpool home. Natalie (Lisa Mogan) arrives without her husband, distraught, having just heard that the plane bringing him home crashed at sea. With the potential widow they wait with bated breath for news confirming whether her husband is among the survivors, before discovering that they are the winners of that evening’s super jackpot lottery draw. From then on, the operative words are “controlling emotions”. And that is just the beginning of this eventful evening, with twists, turns and revelations galore.

The opening night of a first production was always going to result in some nerves but as the action unfolded these largely fell away and the cast were certainly more relaxed in the second half which bodes well for ensuing performances.

The play is well written and packed with great observational humour on the everyday things that litter our lives. To add to that, this translation was cleverly adapted to capture more local and topical references which were instantly recognisable to the audience which is key because the success of any farce demands that immediate connection.

The set was well constructed to reflect the cramped interior of a flat – if anything I might have made it tighter – and I particularly liked the construct of the balcony and its staging to the fore supported its clever reinforcement of key points in the play. Active props such as phones and televisions generally worked well and will naturally get tighter as the run continues; the technical duo of Tony and Les Dagnall deserve much credit for the production’s polished finish.

Halfpenny and Moores worked well as the married couple although lacked a natural chemistry that would have reinforced the believability of the script. There were occasional flat moments although to be fair you can’t have a constant babble, but perhaps some low background noise would have helped. As noted, first night nerves are not uncommon, and I thought the pairing got stronger as the play went on and I did enjoy their rear-stage antics in the second half as the phone calls began coming in. Mogan caught the hysteria of a semi-distraught Natalie where much is definitely not what it seems, although there is a fine line between how much you allow the line to make the impact versus the performance; on the whole the balance was about right.

The most important opinion is that of the audience and tonight’s was certainly well pleased with continuous laughter throughout and a thoroughly deserved round of applause for the cast and crew who have clearly worked hard to bring a lesser-known piece of writing to the stage; when the writer is actively promoting your interpretation then you must be doing something right.

Individuality Productions is the brainchild of Samantha Moores and is the perfect accompaniment to Individuality Youth. Further details https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083337512692

Jean-Pierre Martinez is a contemporary French author and playwright who writes television scripts and stage plays. With an average of 350 stage productions every year, he is one of the most successful European playwrights. Further information available at https://libretheatre.fr/

Friday the 13th performs again on Saturday 29th October at 2pm and 7.30pm at Rainhill Village Hall. Tickets available on the door or via https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/individuality-productions

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 28th October 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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