Many of Ray Cooney’s comedies involve an overwhelmed and hassled protagonist striving to keep calm and make the best out of a bad situation.
What with the rampant clandestine affairs, over-zealous interior decorators, balmy children’s authors, misunderstandings and mistaken identities, the overall chaos which reigns in Move Over Mrs. Markham would no doubt leave the straight laced, conservative and conventional Phillip Markham in a total dither.
Of what will take place on stage this December, the cast of Silent Hands exchange mischievous smiles and ensure us that like in the case of their rehearsals, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Enough said.
Safe to say though, that with this loopy cast, the humour of Move Over Mrs. Markham is in good hands. A rehearsal sees a lot of goofing off, fights over food, good natured teasing and the unforgettable image of the prudish Olive Harriet Smythe capering around in her over sized dress.
Following Silent Hands tradition, most of the actors (with the exception of veteran stage personalities Jerome De Silva, Jehan Bastians and Neidra Williams), are relatively new to the stage, having begun their acting careers on the stage of the Shakespeare Drama Competition. “Despite their relative inexperience,” explains Jehan Bastians, “the cast has been extremely professional in their approach and everything looks very promising.”
Adds Neidra Williams, “it is always an enjoyable experience- working with the casts we select for our productions. There is great chemistry both on and off stage; everyone grows very close and we find that this contributes a great deal to the quality of the overall performance.”
Sulochana Perera, taking on the role of eccentric children’s author Olive Harriet Smythe smiles and adds that acting with the Silent Hands bunch is always a different experience for her. “I feel more at ease, and am given the chance to bond more with the cast- we are all great friends now!”
Stepping into the shoes of the unfortunate Phillip Markham, producer Miranga Ariyaratne compares the world of drama to a drug– something intoxicating. The cast agrees.
As in Move Over Mrs. Markham, everything is about fun in the midst of hard work and commitment. The effort spent on characterization has left most of the young actors echoing their roles on stage and off it. The nature of the drama too, no doubt helps. Packed with typical British humour and elements of farce, Markham as it is more informally and fondly known, has its slapstick moments but this is entirely intentional, and delivered in a manner which does not allow it to appear as mere slapstick but as quality comedy.
“It has not been easy,” agree Jehan and Neidra, “to undertake a production like this at a time where Christmas and the frenzied rush involved is foremost on the audience’s mind. But we realized that Markham has plenty of appeal as a memorable stress reliever.”
For the cast too, this holds true. “We have all had to make a significant commitment to the production, but balancing a career or education with something like this – although having its challenges, is completely worth it. For all of us, the experience of getting back on to stage – especially for a comedy- is a great release.”
Described by its directors as one of the fastest paced, complex scripts they have worked with, Move Over Mrs. Markham is no doubt one of Ray Cooney’s wittiest works.
Complex it is. The intricate plot thickens as time goes on and the scene is of chaos and hilarity as Phillip Markham makes a desperate attempt to sort things out, Linda Lodge attempts to capture the attention of her philandering husband and Olive Harriet Smythe looks on in confusion and disapproval at all that unfolds.
To say more would definitely be telling, and to find out more of the events which take place at the Markham household, drop by at the Lionel Wendt on December 10, 11, 12, or 13 at 7.30pm. Or as a member of the cast so eloquently phrased it, never mind all these details, just make them come and watch!”
Tickets for Markham priced at Rs. 1000/-, 800/-, 500/- and 300/- are available at tickets.lk and at the Lionel Wendt on the days prior to the show.