Went to the theatre a few days back; that is we went to the local school hall the amateurs are using for their productions. They call themselves the Toneel Drama Group and, if my memory of Afrikaans serves me right, toneel is Dutch for play or scene. However they soon became known as the toenail group so it was a strange name to choose to begin with. I have no doubt there was a reason for it. It shows how many ex-pats have settled in this part of Crete that they could fill the house for four performances.
As for the play itself, the most proficient, experienced, talented professionals would not be able to make a silk purse out of this pig’s ear. The play is a mystery/thriller titled “And Evermore Shall Be So.” by a man named Norman Robbins (“green grow the rushes ho, one is one and all alone and evermore shall be so.” The assumption is that everyone will know this song; not a wise assumption to make) and I think it is more mystery than thriller because even now I’m not too sure of what went on, the plot was so convoluted with reams of reported speech in which the characters told other characters what was happening or had happened, usually the latter, but left me for one in the dark and, after a number of people had been bumped off, in one instance at least a case of mistaken identity, the deus ex machina was cancer in both a husband and wife. She killed him (I think) because she said she couldn’t bear to see him in such pain and now she believes God is punishing her by giving her ovarian cancer. As a book it might have been fascinating, as a play it simply is not on, a truly doleful piece of theatrical writing. When a play opens with the telephone ringing and the char coming on (clichéd comedy part) to answer it with a long monologue I know from then on it’s downhill all the way and so it proved and when it finally comes to two people actually dying on stage…well… death scenes are always difficult and these were, to put it bluntly, hilarious and the audience responded accordingly. Again it wasn’t necessarily the actors who were at fault but a fault in the writing.
I was told the committee read ten plays of which they decided this was the best. In which case God alone knows what the others were like though they could have been rejected for practical reasons. The problems they have, so I was informed, are firstly they believe because the stage is so small they are limited to one set plays which of course is not necessarily true. It’s amazing what can be achieved in a small space. Secondly they have to choose plays in which the cast are mostly elderly and this is understandable though again I am sure there must be younger members of the community who would like to take part. Needless to say one of the ten plays rejected was mine –“Little Footstep On The Petals” the reason for the rejection evidently being they felt ex-pats other than English would not understand the northern sense of humour. And it is not sour grapes when I criticise Mister Robbins work. Now I have recently written a comedy called “Marry Go Round” set in Greece that I could send them but is it worthwhile? It requires two sets, one for each act, and they might feel this is beyond their capabilities. Douglas says it’s down to lack of imagination. It’s also I think down to inexperience but good on them anyway for trying. When we first came to Crete I tried to raise an interest in theatre and failed lamentably. At lease they have got off the ground and hopefully can only improve.