Though we have many good amateur dramatic societies, few introduce new work by local writers. Steeple Aston Players provided a welcome exception with Paul Ekert's hilarious farce, Dating by the Book. The full hall at their opening night proved the risk was well worth it. Now that professional theatre is woefully short of outlets that will develop the skills of new writers, it is exciting that a village group are taking the plunge. It has to be said, not all the pitfalls were successfully leapt on their first night, but the enterprise is to be highly praised and hopefully will be repeated many times over in our region.
The play introduces us to five eccentric characters who bring out the worst in each other: a successful literary agent who has been cruelly left spouseless on the eve of her awards evening, ably characterised by Liz Mente Bishop; her intellectually-challenged sister, Deborah Dunn; the equally-limited date Debbie has arranged to settle her sister's escort deficit, Ron Brown, played by Phil Sharman; and two French brothers, Pascal and Jaques Noir, played by Jan Liberadski and Carl Tomlinson - whose mutual enmity is not explained until the end of the play.
It's a fine mix for a romping plot, witty dialogue and a hilarious conclusion. Ekert's play is well-supported by competent stage design, management and lighting. It has plenty to say obliquely about our stereotypical attitudes towards professional women, northerners and our hang-ups about relationships. All human life is there in a nutshell - with plenty of nuts on view!
Hopefully the cracking pace the show needs will accelerate as their short run continues, but the team need to be heartily congratulated on taking on the most exacting of theatrical challenges with such gusto. Still time to get tickets!