NEIL Simon’s original play The Odd Couple was first performed to great and lasting acclaim in 1965.
Twenty years later he agreed to adapt it for a female cast. It was the second version that Ilminster Entertainments Society chose for the spring production, directed by Lyn Lockyer.
The odd couple of the title, personified on screen by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, are here Olive, a TV presenter divorcee who lives happily in deep litter, and Florence, a just-separated controlling clean-freak to whom a speck of dust is anathema.
It all starts as Olive is hosting a weekly girls night out session of Trivial Pursuit. The gang is there – policewoman Mickey, the scatty Vera, Renee always on the lookout for a new partner and frustrated would-be mother Sylvie – but Florence is missing and the others are worried.
When she arrives, announcing that her 14-year marriage is over, the kindly and lonely Olive offers her a home. But theirs is a co-habitation made in hell, and before long Olive is running up the daily-washed walls.
An effort to be sociable with two Spanish men from a neighbouring apartment goes disastrously wrong, and Olive has had enough.
The writer’s quick-fire dialogue and brilliantly observed characterisations could be a real challenge for actors less accomplished than those at IES. But with Paula Denning as Olive and Kayleigh Partt as Florence, leading a cast that included Vicky Hobbs, Maggy Goodall, Yvonne McGuiness, Jacqueline Wanstall and the hilarious Robert Graydon as Manolo and the VERY tall George Montague as his brother Jesus, all under Lyn Lockyer’s sensitive and skilled direction, Simon’s work was in very safe hands.
If you’ve ever known someone like Florence, you’ll appreciate the almost murderous reactions she provokes. Or, if you sympathise with Flo, you will understand her horror at Olive’s approach to tidiness and organisation. Paula Denning and Kayleigh Partt made the characters their own in two brilliant performances that should challenge the acting awards judges when the time comes.