Love, laughs and mayhem at theatre

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THE ABBEY Theatre is the place for a little romance, chaos and laughs this week as their latest production teaches us all a valuable lesson about appreciating what we have.

‘Looking for Love’ by playwright Raymond Hopkins is a clever, well-written romantic comedy with just the right level of good old fashioned British innuendo and sardonic wit.

It is easy to tell when the company has a good script that they can really get their teeth into, the banter flows and any mishaps are gracefully glossed over because the actors are so at ease with the material.

Molly Beale, played by Caroline Pennant Jones, the long-suffering wife of the philandering James, attempts to put her life back together after the breakup of her marriage.

Caroline creates in her character a chrysalis and by the end of the play, without giving too much away, her downtrodden housewife is completely transformed.

In this she is aided by caustic hedonist and best friend Fiona (Sheila Ratcliffe) and a self-help book she swears by called ‘The Marital Merry-go-round’ and a set of increasingly outrageous challenges which are supposed to turn the user’s life around.

James, played by Philip Pennant Jones, plays his part with an element of humanity, at once the audience dislike him for his betrayal but at the same time his wit and abject guilt elicit sympathy.

The Beale household acts as the focal point for the play, with the procession of visitors sparking off of each other to create all sorts of entertaining misunderstandings.

Alan Johnston as a young and ‘inexperienced’ vicar is a hoot as his character is inadvertently used as a literary ping-pong ball between the others.

His love interest, the chaste Lyn, is not as naïve as she seems and Lisa-Marie Wood plays this part with subtlety.

Patricia McInroy is a vision as interfering neighbour Nancy, and her character has some hilariously bawdy lines regarding her never-seen dog, Willy.

Jim Shaw’s character Paul Triton may not have a lot of lines, but those he does have are deftly delivered with sharp wit.

Rick Ferguson’s plays it straight and gets a lot of comedy mileage out of the running gag that his randy masseuse Steve is actually a plumber and Molly’s demanding daughter Claire (Heather Osborne) has just the right amount of amusing cluelessness.

Producer Brian Bruce has cherry-picked his cast with an experienced eye and with his direction has pulled it off wonderfully.

The backstage crew, under Lorna Maud, has once again transformed the compact stage into perfectly suited platform for the frantic comings and goings and their efforts, along with those in the lighting and sound, costume and other departments should be commended.

‘Looking For Love’ runs for another week and is probably the slickest and most entertaining comedy from the Abbey for some time and is heartening to see that playwright Richard Hopkins is donating his share of the proceeds to Multiple Sclerosis research.

The show runs every night at 7.30 p.m., except Sunday, until Saturday, April 6, and tickets can be bought from Visit Scotland on 01241 872609.

JR