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A Month of Sundays

by on 18 March 2018

Pertinent, Poignant and Pleasing

A Month of Sundays

by Bob Larbey

Teddington Theatre Club at Hampton Hill Theatre until 23rd March

Review by John O’Brien

A Month of Sundays showing all this week at The Hampton Hill Theatre is a gem. The Teddington Theatre Club has produced a marvellous production of a play that is pertinent, poignant and pleasing. A Month of Sundays was written by Bob Larbey, best known as the writer of such classic TV sitcoms as: The Good Life, Ever Decreasing Circles, A Fine Romance, As Time Goes By and The Darling Buds of May. A Month of Sundays was Larbey’s first stage play. It won the Evening Standard best comedy of the year award in 1986, and starred the legendary duo George Cole (Minder) and Geoffrey Blaydon (Catweazle).

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The play is set in a Surrey retirement home. The two central characters are Cooper (Roger Smith) and Aylott (John Bellamy). Their respective worlds have shrunk, a la Ever Decreasing Circles to the grounds of the care home for Aylott , but to just his room in Cooper’s case. All of the action takes place in Cooper’s room. Cooper and Aylott can be thought of us the two “Likely Lads”  in an old people’s home, or two characters from Samuel Beckett faced with the daunting prospect of getting through the day. How to pass the time? how to deal with boredom ? how to get through the day ? these are the questions Cooper and Aylott now face. A military metaphor is used to frame their lives. The care home is imagined as a POW camp and the regime is likened to the panzer divisions conducting a blitzkrieg. This works particularly well when the tea trolley (pushed by Nurse Wilson, Julie Davis) and the hoover (activated by the cleaner Mrs Baker, Lara Parker) are seen as analogous to tanks. Cooper and Aylott form a bond based on the notion that they are the “Escape Committee” resisting the POW regime and planning their escape to Switzerland. Their biggest challenge is the unending struggle to remain with-it and not to become one of the zombies. The latter are the living dead, such as Colonel George who has lost it and has had to be fished out of the pond in his best blue suit. Like a Chekhov play, A Month of Sundays works as a tragi-comedy; it shows that life is at once tragic and comic and that the two cannot be separated. It is full of gallows humour, laughing in the face of oblivion.

Cooper and Aylott find ways to resist the panzers and pass the time. They play chess, drink whisky, talk about the fate of the zombies, compare their respective conditions: Aylott is losing his memory, Copper dreads the onset of incontinence (one has a declining mind the other a deteriorating body ) but above all they keep each other going by reciting the names of the 1947 Middlesex Cricket X1. They can only ever remember ten players’ names but they carry on trying to recall the eleventh. To give up would be to concede defeat and become a zombie.

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And even when Cooper’s daughter Julia (Cath Messum) and her husband Peter (Geraint Thomason) bring him a 1947 copy of Wisden he refuses to look up the eleventh player’s name as that would deprive them of the challenge of recall. Such small triumphs are our lives made of. Everyone at The Teddington Theatre Club are to be congratulated on putting on A Month of Sundays, from the director Steve Taylor to Margaret Williams for embroidering Copper’s regimental badge. It shows amateur theatre at its best. This production deserves to be seen. A Month of Sundays does what W H Auden so memorably believed Art with a capital A ought to do: “In the prison of his days, teach the freeman how to praise”.

John O’Brien
March 2018

Photography by Jo-Jo Leppink at Handwritten Photography

 

 

From → Drama, Reviews

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