Perfect double for Abbey Theatre

Cast of Abbey Theatre's play A Handbag are, from left - Jack Richards, Alan Johnston, Aaron Bain, Ruaridh Mathieson, Selina King and Alethe Monaghan.
Cast of Abbey Theatre's play A Handbag are, from left - Jack Richards, Alan Johnston, Aaron Bain, Ruaridh Mathieson, Selina King and Alethe Monaghan.

ABBEY Theatre Club demonstrated their flexibility this week with two contrasting one act plays.

It’s not often a theatre group has the resources, either in the physical sense or in ability, to put on two entirely different works, and more so, make them work.

The Abbey has excelled itself again with their productions of ‘Two Wits to Woo’ and ‘The Handbag’, two very intensive one act plays.

As the production is still running, I don’t want to give away too much about the plots.

John Kelly’s ‘Two Wits to Woo’ is a traditional British period comedy set in the 1930s and follows the interplay of just three characters.

All is not as it seems, and as the act progresses the true depth of the characters is developed to make for a highly entertaining comedy.

The action is set entirely in the drawing room cum office of Winsome Manor and revolves around the cost-cutting measures of the owner, Lady Winsome.

Two of her remaining servants Joseph and James are to be sacked, and their attempts to hang onto their both their jobs and their secrets is very funny.

Judith Sanderson as Lady Winsome is more like a Machiavellian noble than an English landowner, and her stiff upper class lip barely trembles as she fends off the ploys of her staff.

Brian Bruce reminds me a little of Compo from Last of the Summer Wine, and he plays the part of the quietly pilfering head gardener to perfection.

In his first role of the evening, Alan Johnston is on fine form as chauffeur James, a man who might politely be referred to as a ‘budding entrepreneur’.

There are plenty of laughs to be had and the banter is very fluid and Ealing comedy in manner.

Once again it is interesting to see how the set designers and crew adapt the small space to their purpose, and in both plays it does very well.

The second play, ‘The Handbag’ by Anthony Horowitz, was of an entirely different comic hue, being far more modern in both setting and tone.

The actors were largely younger members of the Abbey Theatre, and all performed commendably well given the pressures of producing a one act play.

The characters of ‘The Handbag’ are mostly teenagers and young adults rehearsing a play, each of whom has a dark secret, and the action takes place amidst an increasingly oppressive environment.

Half the fun lies in piecing together the setting, and unravelling the backstories of the fractious cast.

Ruaridh Mathieson as George did an excellent job as the pushy director and his delivery and timing were spot on.

Alan Johnston deserves praise for his portrayal of ‘Specs’, who appears to have a stammer and possibly other difficulties, but when ‘Specs’ acts, he has a tremendous four way conversation with himself as part of the rehearsal.

Aaron Bain portrays the sarcastic and disruptive Allan very well, and Jack Richards give his character Kinsey a laconic but troubled edge.

Selina King is very funny as Rose, another character who is seriously damaged, but comes alive during the rehearsal.

Finally Aletha Monaghan perfectly portrays a very, very angry young lady with a propensity for violence and one-liners.

Producer Carol Bruce has not only chosen well in filling her roles, but in her selection of plays, which complement and contrast very well indeed.

All of the Abbey Theatre members who were involved behind the scenes should also be recognised for their fine efforts once more.

The Abbey Theatre Club’s double bill of ‘Two Wits to Woo’ and ‘The Handbag’ runs until Saturday, August 25. Tickets are available from the booking section at