Panic Stations

by Derek Benfield

28th – 30th October 1993

A local handyman and an attractive girl seem to have moved into a country cottage which enhances the owners’ aptitude for social and antisocial blunders.

Panic Prog

The Cast

Abel Bounty: Mike Long
Chester Dreadnought: Mark Bailey
Carol: Caroline Cook
Patricia: Katherine Griffith
Lady Elrood: Marie Quick
Miss Partridge: Enid Farr
Lord Elrood: Paul Shave
Sergeant Everest: Ian Hickling
Mrs Bounty: Brenda Prior

Produced by Rob Bell

Newbury Weekly News review

Fast and furious

Compton Players have a tradition of encouraging new talent on both sides of the curtain and their latest offering is no exception. Robertson Bell, a familiar presence on stage, makes his debut as producer, while the cast contains the usual mixture of new faces and seasoned performers. Farce makes the illogical believable, and this play goes through every permutation of mistaken identity imaginable. At the vortex of the complications is Chester Dreadnought, played by Mark Bailey. Having taken over this demanding role at fairly short notice, one can only wonder at his prodigious memory. He delivered his lines with the assured staccato of a manic machine gun.

Chester’s wife and mother-in-law, played by Katherine Griffith and Marie Quick, looked just right and delivered their lines clearly, but at times found it difficult to stay in character.

Caroline Cook as Carol, the girl who has misread Chester’s signals and is the cause of the mayhem, kept up as appearance of wide-eyed trusting innocence. She was equally seductive in a dressing gown, a man’s shirt, and a little ‘black number’ of scanty proportions.

No farce would be complete without the comic character parts and Compton Players were fortunate to have experience on their side in this department. Mike Long as handyman Abel Bounty portrayed the unsubtle philosophy of his character with consummate ease, while Brenda Prior as his wife gave a lesson in comic timing in a beautifully underplayed performance. Here is an actress who not only knows how to deliver a comic line to full effect, but can also get laughs with a pause or a look.

Ian Hickling as Sergeant Everest began as an overpowering bully and was reduced to apologetic idiot by this bizarre household. One hardly recognised Enid Farr in her old lady disguise as the dotty Miss Partridge, moving among the other characters, oblivious to anything but her fixation with the distant past. Paul Shave as Lord Elrood, still living in the more recent past, appeared at intervals with shotgun on hand, wide-eyed with excitement at the prospect of bagging another enemy.

In spite of the fact that the production as a whole suffered from a lack of pace and meaningful movement, there was an evident dedication and enthusiasm from the company which made up for the missed opportunities in sheer entertainment value.