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Three Feet/Coach House, Malvern
11:29am Thursday 3rd May 2012 in Latest
HAVE you ever been abruptly removed from your comfort zone without a moment’s notice?
That is the fate that befalls Albert, a routine-obsessed nightshift worker at an Isle of Man hotel and the central character in Malvern-based Nick Wilkes’ latest comedic offering, Three Feet. Albert, played by Murray Andrews, has settled for an uninterrupted and simple life, with everything just so.
After a tourist-board style audio-visual welcome to the wonderfully outdated Triskelion Hotel, the opening scene includes a hilarious display of obsessive compulsive behaviour from Albert before his life is invaded.
Two extra agency workers have been drafted in for the world famous TT motorcycle race and if one is company, three is definitely a crowd for insular Albert, initially at least.
Jak (Rob Temple) thinks he is very much the lad in total contrast to the man whose shift he now finds himself sharing. The laid back Scouser has very little interest in work, or doing things by the book, much to the horror of Albert, who would never be seen without his faithful green jacket, or ‘handbag with sleeves’ as Jak prefers to call it. The two clash initially, with Jak keen to enjoy his temporary stay on the island and his eyes light up when Sam (Elaine Hartley) arrives.
Intriguingly dressed in an oversized male uniform, the sassy Scot soon captures the attentions of her co-workers, but is her only motive at the hotel one of temporary employment?
Wilkes’ trademark clever wordplay along with riotous quips and insults ensue as Albert is forced to deal with having his normally vast personal space crowded by two ‘come overs’. No longer is he left in peace with his signed photo of Lionel Blair and his best friend Charlie (an umbrella), but the shameless Jak eventually forces him to loosen up and his competitive edge soon surfaces.
By the end of the first act, all three of the characters have been extensively developed, paving the way for an even stronger second act, which includes one particularly impressive and slick set change.
There are twists, turns and even a surprise late cameo, building to a thoroughly enjoyable climax which drew hearty laughter from everyone assembled in the Coach House Theatre in Malvern.
Temple performs the role of Liverpudlian antagonist admirably, while Andrews is convincing and thoroughly entertaining as by-the-book Albert.
The charming Hartley is the perfect foil for the bickering pair, providing both warmth and mystery, a role she carries off effortlessly. The accents, and the acting are top drawer all-round.
Wilkes has personal experience of hotel work from his student days and a recent visit to the Isle of Man also provided inspiration for arguably his most enjoyable play to date, best described as a traditional farce with added substance.
Three Feet is his eighth production and it is easy to see why audience numbers are swelling, with the entire five-night run selling out. The next ‘Malvern Bard’ installment won’t be long: it can’t come soon enough.
Review by Jon Palmer