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Ruby Productions: Keeping Up Appearances - Review by Jeffrey Victorino

Ruby Productions ‘Keeping up appearances’, directed by Glenn Lovett, is a play based on the characters of the British television series of the same name of the 1990s. Performed at the John Lees Centre, this television adaptation is not a reenacting of any of the episodes, but a made for stage script that uses the same characters. Lovett’s production of ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ captures that of the British humour with quick witted banter, innuendos and some physical humour. With the plot line not being the focus of the show, the characters and their chemistry is what makes this local production light hearted, fun and enjoyable.

‘Keeping Up Appearances’ follows a local theatre company, consisting of the characters from the television show, as they try and attempt to put on a production. The leading character, Hyacinth Bucket’s (Jenny van der Lem)- pronounced bouquet, attempts to increase her role within the production, with this need to increase her part, her antics lead to the fun and enjoyment viewed by the audience. Her naive and oblivious interactions with Emmett (Richard Tonkin), the director, is what leads audiences to laugh due to the fact that she is unaware of her impacts on him. One key scene that shows the hilarious antics of Hyacinth is where the cast is rehearsing a scene where she is to walk through a door. At first, the door is unable to open for her to exit. Once the door is finally opened and the scene can be rehearsed, she is then unable to once again open the door in order to enter the room to do the scene. Van der Lim’s comedic and comic timing is clearly presented and shown, not only due to the typically funny situation, but also in her ability to continue to play daft and innocent, and therefore continue to aggravate already frustrated Emmett.

The other characters' dynamics and chemistry, Daisy (Louise Gal) and Onslow (Dennis Channells), Milly (Frank O’Brien) and Rose (Corina Thompson), also provide for many laughs. However, the shows’ understated character is Liz (Sam Crowe), Emmett’s supportive sister. Although not there for laughs, her caring and support nature to those around make her a refreshing person for audiences to connect with.

The initial parts of the show, whilst building character plots and stories, seemed to track slowly. It is not until later in the first act of the show, as the show progresses, do the one liners and witty banter between characters, that seem to flow naturally, start to peak the interest of the audience and the show becomes more funny and entertaining. However, the abrupt end to the show also left audiences unsure if the end was the end or if there was more to come. In a way, it left audiences wanting more.

As this is a local production, the production quality was great for what it was. Lighting was well utilised with everyone and everything illuminated. Sound quality was clear and at an appropriate volume. Even though the actors were not mic’d up, they were able to project (although at differing levels) to the audience. Stage design had a great layout with all actors visible from any position on the stage and visible from any seated location in the audience. Most costumes were appropriate and suited to the era the show was set in. Make-up was applied well without looking over applied when being drowned out by the lights.

A questionable part of the show was the presence of the modern mobile phone as a prop. An assumption that could be made was that this show, presumably set in the 90s, did not have mobile phones of that nature - hence the confusion. Another aspect, as this show was set in the UK, actors' accents dropped in and out throughout the performance.

Overall, after the slow start and the existence of modern mobile phones, Ruby Productions ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ was a light hearted, funny show that is successful due largely to the dynamics between the actors.

3.5 Royal Doultons out of 5

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