If ever there was a time when we needed cheering up and a chance to laugh out loud in the company of friends and neighbours then this is it. Step up the ever resourceful Farnborough Dramatic Society to do just that with their production of ‘A Bad Year for Tomatoes ‘ a play in two acts by John Patrick.
A favourite play of director Nick Abbott , the play was apparently not without a few disasters of its own, but luckily for the village audiences it survived into a spectacular success.
The drama opens in the living room of a small house in the village of Beaver Haven, Vermont, USA. during the mid 1970s. Successful actress Myra Marlowe, played by none other than successful actress Sue Williams in an excellent decision of casting, arrives in the remote village ‘to get away from it all’, live quietly where she isn’t known and write her autobiography whilst enjoying a life of quiet domesticity which includes a long held wish to grow tomatoes.
To aid her in this plan she forgoes her glamorous theatrical appearance and reverts to her birth name of Myrtle Durdle. Her agent and erstwhile lover, Tom Lamont, played by Chris Franks who adds yet another successful role to his repertoire, tries to persuade Myrtle to change her mind and return with him to the bright lights of L.A. but she is adamant that her decision is final.
The opening scene is followed rapidly by farcical and very funny episodes all based on the premise that there is no such thing as ‘getting away from it all and living a quiet life in a village’ when inquisitive neighbours surround you. Enter two nosy women neighbours under the guise of a welcoming committee played by Holly Seijo and Nicola Hollow. As a double act, the two turned in excellent performances bouncing off of each other in equal measure. In a welcome return to the stage Nicola was never better as Cora Gump and Holly followed through as Reba Harper with the pair adding facial expressions which had the audience in fits of laughter.
It should also be noted that the full cast of actors had to keep up their American accents, never letting them slip, and this they all continued to do throughout the performance. Piney is the local skunk trapper - every village should have one! He also takes on other odd jobs of seemingly able to provide whatever a customer might need or whatever he thinks they might need. An hilarious performance from Mark Hollidge who did indeed ‘become’ Piney. And every village should have its own ‘witch/clairvoyant character’ and Louise Friend ably stepped up with an excellent portrayal.
The quiet life that Myrtle Durdle sought was of course out of the question in such a nosy community and in an effort to keep them from continually knocking on her door, she invents a twin sister who has come to live with her and who is in need of extreme care and needs complete privacy. In fact one could go as far as to say her sister is ‘a little mad’ although frankly in Beavers Haven that could be seen as normal. Here, Sue Williams proves her amazing talent as, not only is she on stage for most of the play, but she is playing both parts as the sisters. Mad sister also has the added requirements of a blonde wig and the most enormous set of false teeth which must have caused an immense effort on Sue’s part to keep them from flying off into the audience.
The resulting farce continues and when Myrtle finally decides to inform her neighbours that her twin has returned to Boston, the whole idea causing more trouble than it was worth, the villagers decide that Myrtle has committed murder by doing away with her sister. So enters the final member of the cast, the local Sheriff played by who else but Robin Walker helping to keep the Walker family acting tradition alive and well, not to mention successful. Towering over the villagers, well apart from Piney who incidentally is nursing a desperate love for the mad twin she of the blonde wig and false teeth, the Sheriff at first believes a murder has been committed until all is finally revealed.
Oh, and the tomato growing? Sadly Myrtle’s attempt was thwarted by her plants only producing a single tomato. It was a Bad Year for Tomatoes.
Originally printed in The Farnborough Village Parish Magazine