Review: Drowning on Dry Land
Image: Bournyack Theatre Co
Charlie Conrad: BLAIR ROBERTSON
Linzi Ellison: JANINE PARDO
Jason Ratcliffe: MALCOLM JEFFRIES
Hugo De Prescourt: PHILIP GILL
Gale Gilchrist: LOUISE DEVLIN
Marsha Bates: OLIVIA BUSBY
Simeon Diggs: JOHN CRAGGS
Laura: FRIDA STROM
Katie: ELLIE WARD
Alan Ayckbourn's coruscatingly acid and funny play tells the story of Charlie Conrad - a man who seemingly has everything: fame, fortune and a legion of faithful fans.
He has no talent.
Charlie is famous for doing nothing and failing in everything he attempts.
A famous celebrity, he is resented by his wife, who gave up her career for him.
Put in the mix, an amorous clown and an investigative journalist, Charlie is about to find out just how fickle fame can be.
“It is folly to drown on dry land”. (English Proverb)
Bournyack Theatre Company is a brand new 'non-profit' theatre company recently formed by actor Martin Rossen.
Currently appearing in ‘An Inspector Calls’ in the West End, his theatre credits include two lead roles in two Ayckbourn plays; Chandler Tate in 'Comic Potential' and Vic Parkes in 'Man of the Moment'.
Inspired by great writers such as Alan Ayckbourn, Bournyack bring their first play to the prestigious Wimbledon venue.
A swanky home, sporting an odd Victorian folly dating back to the 1880s and languishing amid manicured privets, is the setting for this 2004 play by the illustrious and much-loved British playwright, Sir Alan Ayckbourn.
It's not the home of some filthy-rich member of the establishment, or an entrepreneurial tech inventor, or even a prolific playwright.
No, this rambling pile is home to a man who is rich and famous because he belongs to a class known as 'TV celebrities'.
And for Alan Ayckbourn, it seems, that description means very little indeed if the play's principal character is anything to go by.
Though Charlie Conrad (Blair Robertson) is in huge demand for TV panel games, quiz shows, opening supermarkets and numerous other lucrative, but undemanding activities, he actually has few apparent skills.
His fame, in fact, is due entirely to failure, arising largely from a quiz show appearance where he got none of the questions correct.
That didn't stop the British TV-viewing public from taking him to their collective heart and rocketing him to TV stardom, providing the wealth that inevitably brings.
However, not everything in Charlie's life is going as well as it might, and for the duration of this unnecessarily protracted play, it gets a whole lot worse as the state of his marriage takes an irreversible nose-dive, an interview with an opportunistic TV interviewer goes horribly wrong and a simple request for an autograph leads to Charlie becoming embroiled in a legal battle with a seemingly-shy and reticent children's entertainer.
It's obvious why Alan Ayckbourn should have sought to explore the murky waters of TV celebrity and fame, but even Paul Tate's well-acted revival can't solve this play's inherent limitations and inadequacies.
In particular, it's not completely clear just what Sir Alan is actually saying about celebrity.
It's certainly a cynical play - and the playwright himself described it additionally as 'angry'.
But is he angry about talentless people becoming famous or how short-lived fame can be, or how fickle the public can be, or what?
Clearly, Sir Alan seems angry about the lengths people will go to get fame, as well as those who parasitically feast on the fame of others.
And there's an implied criticism of the public at large who are responsible for creating celebrities - and bringing them to their ruin as well.
Though these are all interesting points for discussion, the play nevertheless feels somewhat thin in terms of overall substance, with the second half starting with a wholly unlikely meeting between solicitors and their clients.
And the remainder of the play is left to wallow in the rather maudlin death-throes of Charlie's career and that of interviewer Gale Gilchrist, who has similarly sunk from the dizzying heights of TV infamy to the depths of obscurity.
The impression is that the play has been stretched-out to fit a standard two act format, where Alan Ayckbourn might easily have shoe-horned all he had to say into a considerably shorter duration.
The comedy is rather sparse here - what there is relies heavily on characterisation - and two small cameo roles of playful, giggling girls serve largely to irritate than amuse or provide some contrast with the adult world they invade.
Though Paul Tate's production is commendably professional, it's hard to judge just where Alan Ayckbourn's sympathies, if any, actually lie, or where his anger is really being targeted.
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ActDrop listing for New Wimbledon Theatre
Our show listing for Drowning on Dry Land
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