- About the Author
- On Active Service
We went to the theatre twice last week, two different theatres, two very different plays, both put on by local amateur dramatic clubs.
The theatre in our county town of Taunton, The Brewhouse, has had to close due to lack of funding. Another unfortunate “sign of the times”. For the last three years the local amateur dramatic and opera groups have been unable to afford the weekly hire charge of £10,000 and have been performing in other venues like the Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre in Monkton Heathfield and the Regal Theatre in Minehead. There is a campaign to re-open the Brewhouse, when hopefully they can resume productions in the theatre built specifically for this purpose.
But back to the performances themselves. On Thursday we saw “Dangerous Corner” by J.B.Priestley, performed by The Barnstormers. We know the play well, it’s an interesting concept, the “what if” premise that Priestley also used to good effect in “An Inspector Calls”, and one I have used myself in my novel “The Double Life of Jemma Langford”. In “Dangerous Corner” it all hinges on a cigarette box, but I won’t spoil the plot for those who don’t know it. A serious play, it must have been quite daring in its time, dealing, albeit discreetly, with homosexuality and adultery, but is tame, almost amusingly so, by today’s standards.
The next night we went to the Taunton Thespian’s production of “Snake in the Grass” by Alan Ayckbourn, a most unusual work, hard to categorise: not a comedy, not a thriller, a black comedy maybe, but dealing with some very serious issues like domestic violence, child abuse and the balance of power within a family. Not comfortable viewing. Sometimes I think that’s what Ayckbourn is aiming for: to make us feel uncomfortable, to make us think. It certainly got us talking. Even now, two days later, we are saying, “What d’you think it meant when she said…?”We prefer his early works, comedies like “The Norman Conquest”, “Chorus of disapproval”, “Seasons Greetings”, but if the play was not especially to our taste, the acting more than made up for it. It never ceases to amaze me that people in ordinary walks of life with no aspirations to be professional actors, can perform so amazingly. There were only three characters, all women, they needed no prompting (and it is a very wordy play), their timing was perfect, there were no unnecessary pauses, in fact they knew how to use their pauses and their characters were credible. It was just brilliant.
Bethany Askew is the author of five novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.