SIMON Williams is best known for his many television roles and in The Archers, but he is also a novelist and playwright, and one of his four plays, the 2001 Laying the Ghost, was chosen by Yeovil based Civic Players for their late autumn production at the Swan Theatre.
Set in a retirement home for actors on the south coast, it has its moments of Blithe Spirit and Quartet, with its own clever blend of comedy and poignancy. If you want to be picky, the production has a few glaring discrepancies, including a painting of Margo in her greatest role in the early 1980s, by Augustus John, (who died in 1961), and a 70th birthday seen as a defining declining moment at a time when several of our leading actresses are now ocagenarians. But that doesn’t spoil the many delights of the Civic show.
Margot, first wife of Sir Leo Buchanan, lives in the home run by Mrs Kidd. Her best friend is the scatty Freda Deacon, a woman to whom the recently dead frequently and exclusively appear.
On her 70th birthday, which she had no intention of marking, not only cards and presents arrive but also people. First there is young actress Sadie, then Leo’s second wife Judy … and then Leo himself.
The appearance of two, still warring, wives and his latest mistress is too much, and the randy old actor keels over and dies. But, thanks to the ministrations of Freda (who has her own hidden agenda) it’s anything but over.
Jo Simpson gives a barnstorming performance as Freda, with newcomer Sara Tehrani bringing a subtle naturalism to the proceedings.
Margot Buchanan was the acerbic but kind Margot, with Angie Eason in the role of the unlovable Judy, Amanda Perry as the matron, and Adrian Harding relishing all the attention as Leo.
The Civic Players’ best comedian Andy Meadows put in a marvellously Russian cameo as a kissogram.
The show is on until Saturday 30th November, nightly at 7.45.