Happy Acres

by H Connolly

26th – 29th October 2022

It may be advertised as “A Quality Establishment” but Happy Acres health farm is far from that. The domineering Mrs Comley and her sidekick Sam, the old odd job man, are in charge of the worn out and tired buildings. Sam is running a moonshine whisky still from the garden shed. They both spend their time trying to relieve the clientele of pounds, not from their waists but from their wallets. Mrs Comley, in cahoots with Madame O, the struck-off hypnotist, allow the inmates to indulge in a spot of “harmless hypnotics”. That is until all the booking forms get muddled up and the punters become not quite what they expected! A fast paced, very funny comedy that all the family can enjoy.

Happy Acres Poster

The Cast

Mrs Comley: Ann Griffiths
Sam: H Connolly
Madame O: Brenda Prior
Mrs Liddle: Mary Warrington
Mr Liddle: Chris Kendrick
Miss Batty: Lynne Buckland
Wayne Picker: George Buckland
Jane Smith: Naomi Read
Mr Roberts: Alan Johnson

Directed and designed by Eric Saxton

Newbury Weekly News review

Compton romps on…

Players’ comedy revival packed with mischief and mayhem

Last Thursday, I was privileged to be invited to Compton Village Hall to see the Players’ revival of Happy Acres. Originally written by local resident H Connolly in 1994, this well-constructed farce is a light-hearted romp in the vein of Cooney and Ayckbourn, packed with confusion and entendres.

Six holiday makers find themselves at the run-down Happy Acres health club, managed by the unscrupulous Mrs Comley. All of them are there to become fitter and healthier individuals – some have also booked to see the mysterious hypnotist Madame O to deal with some very specific personal matters.

What ensues is a madcap day and night of crossed wires and cross dressing, mischief, deception and mayhem as the guests fall foul to the exploitation of the hotel staff.

Eric Saxton’s skilled direction provides a sense of constant movement, to which the cast give consistently energetic performances. Ann Griffiths gives Mrs Comley a canny strength, emphasising the wily nature of the hotel owner. H Connolly is the dogged Sam. who fulfils all the other roles at the resort (from driver to handyman and beyond), performing each with excellent comic timing and physicality. Meanwhile Alan Johnson’s narcoleptic Mr Roberts is appropriately the straight man in act one, as a set up to his more comic turn after the interval.

Brenda Prior’s Madame O perfectly pitches her faux mysticism and appalling disguises to great comic effect. Mrs Liddle’s surprise transformation in act two gives Mary Warrington an opportunity to have fun with her character, particularly in relation to Mr Liddle (Chris Kendrick) whose “snide remarks” keep the audience laughing (and groaning) with a stream of dad jokes.

Miss Batty’s prim-to-vim transformation raises the biggest laughs of the night, played joyfully by Lynne Buckland, while her son George was the witty but dim-witted health fanatic (and hypochondriac) Wayne Picker, who never quite understands his partner’s needs. Naomi Read’s Clare Smith is as long-suffering as she is persistent and controlling, in what was perhaps the most nuanced and considered performance of the night.

All that aside, what made Happy Acres so very enjoyable was being among a community that has been coming together to make, perform and enjoy theatre for at least 75 years.

The inter-generational approach to cast, crew and front of house is part of a rich tradition that has inspired and encouraged hundreds over the decades – and long may it continue.


NODA review

Happy Acres written by Compton Players’ member, H Connolly, is a play that follows the antics of visitors to a health farm called ‘Happy Acres’. But the ‘inmates’ are anything but happy. The motley crew includes a male chauvinist, a nervous spinster, a fraudulent hypnotist, a sex starved girlfriend and a jealous wife.

FRONT OF HOUSE: The hall was laid out theatre style with rows. The FOH staff were welcoming with refreshments available before the performance, during the interval and after the production. There was a lovely atmosphere ready for the first night.

SCENERY/SET/PROPERTIES: The set, the main room of ‘Happy Acres’ was decorated to represent a rather tatty and down and out property in need of funds. There was good detail: sign for the gym, brochure rack with Happy Acres leaflets inserted. The nicely painted garden outside was well lit and welcoming. The props were many: vases full of chips, boxes of booze, a guide dog on wheels to mention just a few.

COSTUMES AND MAKE UP: The costumes were in line with the story and costumes changed, when necessary; for example, changing from their arrival clothes into their track suits. There was good attention to detail. Madame O’s costumes were extensive and varied as she changed disguises while supposedly collecting for charities including Help the Aged, Salvation Army, Guide dogs for the Blind, and Lollipop lady. There was also a fabulous clown costume for one of the inmates.

THE PRODUCTION: There was great characterisation from all the cast who wove their way through the intricate plot with aplomb. There were some very funny (if a little dated) jokes such as when discussing running, “her nose runs, that’s why she’s not allowed in the kitchen” and “her brain is like the mobile library, always in the next town when you need it”. As well as the verbal action there was plenty of physical comedy, a collapsing sofa, an explosion and a vase full of chips being used to bring someone round who had fainted. The hypnotist mixing up notes made for some very humorous set pieces, Lynne Buckland as Miss Batty arriving in full vamp mode was priceless and George Buckland’s arrival in skin tight leotard deserves a special mention. There was a cracking pace throughout and this production was an excellent reminder that good fun and laughter doesn’t have to rely on smutty, cruel and offensive jokes. All in all, well done to Compton Players for an evening of sheer fun.



6th – 8th October 1994

This was the premiere of Happy Acres. We liked it so much when we re-read it in 2022 that we did it again.

Happy Acres Programme

The Cast

Mrs Comley: Enid Farr
Sam: Eric Saxton
Madame O: Elizabeth Saxton
Mrs Liddle: Mary Warrington
Mr Liddle: Robertson Bell
Miss Batty: Brenda Prior
Wayne Picker: Paul Plested
Jane Smith: Rebecca Jones
Mr Roberts: Paul Shave

Produced by H Connolly

Newbury Weekly News review

Health Farm Antics

I tend to approach ‘world premieres’ with some trepidation, never knowing quite what to expect. But I needn’t have worried about Happy Acres, performed last week by Compton Players, and written and directed by their resident playwright, H Connolly.

The most striking thing about Mr Connolly’s production was the quality of the plot, which revolves around an assorted group of guests at a rather dubious health farm. Add a few catalytic ingredients: a suspicious wife, an alcohol racket, and a hypnotism session during which the patients’ case notes become mixed up, and the result is a hilarious farce with unexpected consequences. The casting on the whole was excellent. Mary Warrington and Robertson Bell worked extremely well together as the suspicious Mrs Liddle and her sceptical husband. Paul Plested and Rebecca Jones were equally well matched as the younger guests at the farm, and Paul is to be congratulated for his brilliant character transformation following hypnotism. Brenda Prior, as Miss Batty, made an equally impressive change, from shrinking violet with ‘waterworks problems’ to an insatiable nymphomaniac. Eric Saxton brought masterly timing and delivery to the part of Sam, the disgruntled odd-job man, while Enid Farr, as the proprietor Mrs Comley, settled comfortably into the part after a slightly nervous start. Elizabeth Saxton, as the hypnotist Madame O and Paul Shave as Mr Roberts completed a very well-balanced cast.

On the technical side, the production ran seamlessly, thanks to stage manager Nick Roberts and his team, and the solid set added a number of humorous touches to the play.

A very enjoyable evening and a genuinely welcoming group. I look forward to the next ‘premiere.’