TWO back-to-back one-act plays comprised the latest offering from Harrow on the Hill's own am-dram group, The Hill Players, a group which is still really in its infancy. Following December's Stepping Out, the cast returned to Harrow School's Ryan Theatre to stage, firstly, The Reading Group by Fay Weldon.
In a small town, where nothing much else happens, local astrologist Oriole (played by the excellent Jackie Burn), a middle-aged lady in a relationship with, and propositioned by Tom, a Hungarian man many years her junior (convincingly played by Paul Joyce), sets up a women-only reading group.
While pondering which book to choose as their subject, much gets revealed about the actual women attending the group, from the slightly surreal Ann (Sarah-Jayne Ford, also directing, giving an accomplished performance), to practical-toextremes Avril (the marvellous Maggie Conroy), to newcomer Lesley (a star performance by Dolores Talty), to the proper Zelda (Jean Ford, meeting the high standard set by her and her colleagues), and, finally, to Harry, Ann's "husband of the dubious motives", well played here by Danny Dresser.
I was duly impressed both by the play and the performance of it: sharp, incisive, hilariously funny.
I would, in fact, call this probably the best performance by the Hill Players since their formation.
The second half of the package - Stephen Smith's Departure - was, in hindsight, a little bit of an anticlimax for me.
Perhaps it was the pressure of scaling the high bar set by the first production.
However, I felt that the performance of the slightly surreal Departure, a play set in an airport lounge, just did not 'click' enough to keep my attention and entertain me in quite the way that The Hill Players have done so far.
This was despite virtuoso performances from the excellent Val Bruce (a tour de force as Rosemary) and, on her acting debut, the quite superb Kunmi Olatunji (hilarious to the point of tears of laughter as Rosemary's daughter, the clueless Mandy).
The Hill Players, particularly in light of their current good performances and consistently excellent previous productions, are and remain an accomplished amateur dramatics group.
Anyone who would like to know more about The Hill Players should email founder Maggie on email@example.com