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Scents and Sensibility

by on 1 April 2022

A Whiff of Spring

Scents and Sensibility

by Joseph Bazalgette

Olf Actors at the Mogden Open Air Theatre, Isleworth until 1st April

Review by Avril Sunisa

Spring puts a certain freshness in the air, so I was happy to accept another invitation to review a traditionally clandestine thespian exposition at the earliest opportunity in April.  The exclusive press performance was a matinee, indeed in its original meaning, for there were no performances in the afternoon.

Directions to the open-air theatre were a little vague, just to go past Twickenham stadium and follow our noses.  In fact the MOAT, as the theatre is affectionately known, was a lakeside open-air setting, set in parkland amongst countless circular water features, some constantly aerated.  A fellow critic, who has been suffering from Long Covid, found it absolutely delightful.

Olf Actors are a down-to-earth group, although they travel as free as the wind.  For its current production Scents and Sensibility, a mood piece very loosely based on the life Jane Austen, the cast have come along the A40 and A30, some as far as Somerset or Devon.  Their director, Bo Fetor, describes Olf Actors as a scratch company, coming from the great unwashed.

Scents and Sensibility concerns the romantic life of Miss Austen, who was born in Cowley, and was indeed one of the local gentry, a grandniece of Sir Patrick Cowley, known below stairs as Cow Pat.  She was brought up on the Noland Park estate, where her father was the local vicar and where they lived at The Reektory on the estate.  Here she was wooed by Maurice Oxford, but he lacked the pulling power of his young brother, who was known as Maurice Minor.  The badly-dressed older brother was always wearing the wrong gear, and smoked a lot.   Sometimes down the pub, he would get well-oiled, so Jane quickly pulled away from him.  Although not from the gentry, Maurice Minor had a certain charm, but Jane could not betray her class, and besides he always smelt of badly polished wood and rubber.  When so many midwives and district nurses found him so desirable, Jane decided to brake the relationship.

When Jane’s father retired, the family went to live in Bath, where polite society carried pouncet boxes of chypre or bouquets of violets, and exhaled patchouli, which masked the memory of the brothers Maurice.  However, being in Bath was too draining for the family and they longed to return to the natural ambience of rural Hampshire.

Enough of the plot, for I would not want to reveal a spoiler, but suffice it to say that Jane meets the dashing, polished, and sleek Hon. Jeremy Healey, fragrant with leather and essential oils.  A happy-ever-after marriage is inevitable, although Mr and Mrs Austen-Healey start a supercharged life, very much in the society fast-lane.  However they eventually tyred of this lifestyle and settled into a less austintatious life, having a lot of little sprites.

In the lead role as Jane Austen, the up and coming aromatic actress Effie Luvium savoured what might otherwise be a vapid part, wafting across the stage like a will o’th’wisp in the dawn light of the sedimentation ponds.

Clarkson Piggott as Hon Jeremy Healey

The malodourous Maurice Oxford was tackled with gusto by the veteran actor Os Matick, a whiff of Sir Larry about his nifty style, whereas Frank Grant playing Maurice Minor gave a more nebulous performance, almost aerosolic.  

As the male lead of the Hon. Jeremy Healey, Clarkson Piggott got the flavour of the character, his acrid wit and leather-arsed bluster, soon to mellow like a ripe Stilton.

Inigo Myrrh was stupendous as the Revd George Austen, although he seemed incensed by some of the other acting.  Nevertheless, the potpourri of smaller roles were not to be sniffed at.

Incidental music was supplied by a hearty wind orchestra and a choir who sang the humming chorus from Madam Butterfly; Cio-Cio San meets Coco Chanel, but not quite.

Lighting Designer, Jodhpur Merde was remarkably superfluous and the Set Design by Cloaca Pharte was unbelievable.   

The early morning performance was bracingly unforgettable, very atmospheric, that would bring tears to eyes and smelt the most hardened heart.  

Olf Actors are flushed with the success of the company’s tour, as during lockdown they seemed to be going down the pan.  Rivals look out; you have met your Waterloo.

Avril Sunisa, April 2022

Photography by Walter Turbid  and Paul Plugg

From → Drama, Fringe

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