Actors decide the show must go on

A WOKING theatre group is finding inventive ways to work around lockdown restrictions, staging a play filmed on Zoom from six different locations.

The Actor’s Nightmare, which is being produced by the Horsell Amateur Dramatic Society, is a short black comedy revolving around an accountant called George who finds himself appearing in a series of plays for which he is unprepared.

The cast of The Actor’s Nightmare, top row, from left, Peter Heath, Anne Leggett and Anna Loveday. Bottom row, from left, Olly Clifford, Tom Calder and Ginny Harrington

He stumbles from scene to scene desperately trying to work out who he is, where he is and what he needs to do. He is helped and hindered by a cast of seemingly unhinged actors, who take the absurd plots twists and speeches to even more surreal heights.

George’s theatrical journey goes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, through a couple of Samuel Becket plays, Noel Coward’s Private Lives to A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt.

“It’s really good fun and has got so many themes. The actors George encounters are super-characters. They go off-script and are quite scary,” said Kay Anderson, the director. “A cast who never met, who rehearsed entirely alone and who were asked to perform under very difficult conditions, have excelled themselves.”

She said that The Actor’s Nightmare, by Christopher Durang, can be seen as a straight comedy but there are darker aspects to the piece.

“As with all black comedies, there is a real sense of menace behind all the nonsense; George’s fellow actors deliver their lines with confidence and aplomb, even when it appears to be utter rubbish. Their farcical non-sequiturs build remorselessly to a frenzy of panic and confusion in the deadly final scene,” Kay said.

“George finds himself on stage and not knowing what to do but he has to do something. Anyone who has had any connection with theatre will know that feeling,” she added.

Kay said that it is up to the audience to decide if all the characters are real or imaginary and what is really happening.

The final scenes of the play, in which George is in Thomas Moore’s cell in A Man For All Seasons includes some Monty Python-style absurdity but there is a dark twist.

The play was originally to be done as a reading by HADS, which has had to suspend its live performances because of the pandemic.

A plan to film a stage version had to be dropped and so the cast are appearing on Zoom from their homes in a production that has been edited by Tony Charters, the former News & Mail photographer who now lives in Devon.

Kay said many aspects of the planned stage version have been kept and the six-strong cast have been very inventive about how to stage various scenes.

“We have had to work out how to show someone slapping the face of another person who is in their home in a different county,” Kay said.

 “There are many great things about doing it this way. For instance, it highlights that George is trapped in a sort of goldfish bowl.”

Kay said that the restrictions of coronavirus has allowed HADS to expand what it can do and reach people from outside Woking or who couldn’t get to Horsell Village Hall where the group rehearses.

The Actor’s Nightmare will be screened on YouTube on 15 January 2021 at 8pm.

To register to see the live screening and for more information, visit www.horsellads.com.

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