Sunday, 16 February 2020

The Post Ram Tod Dynasty

Conrad Beck writes:
Cal (Doug Sandle)
Doug Sandle's new play, The Post Ram Tod Dynasty, refurbished from a radio play he wrote ages ago and which - mysteriously - was never broadcast, was given two brilliantly entertaining performances in the intimate but chilly (the heating was off) setting of the Meanwood Institute on Sunday 16 February.  The meaning of the odd title became clear in the opening five minutes: it is nearly an anagram of Tom Stoppard, the name of the famous playwright, in tandem with the word Dynasty. Cal, a playwright, is sitting at his desk wrestling with writer's block and scraping around for ideas, in the course of which he invokes the names of the likes of Stoppard, but to no avail, because he is interrupted first by his wife Ros, and then by their friends Linda and George. Perhaps they can help with what Cal describes as 'one of my existential fantasies'.

Cal (played by Doug Sandle in the afternoon and by Dave Robertson in the evening) seems to be stranded in Egypt, where the Professor Tompkin who has just popped into his head is in search of treasure. The waspish Linda (a beautifully nuanced performance from Jane Oakshott) suggests he bases his characters on the weather forecast and the determinedly placid Ros (a professional touch here from Maggie Mash) comes out with a frightening true story of when she was sitting in a train near a man who told her he was a psycho. George, who resents too much drama in his life (played by the intensely dramatic Murray Edscer) is taunted and pushed to the limits, because he cannot make out whether or not Cal is reading from a script. The atmosphere is almost calm, though, and they drink invisible whisky from a visible bottle, which Cal pours making glugging noises. We laugh. They are four credible characters in search of an author, perhaps, unlike the professor and Hilda, his nubile assistant in Cal's imagination, who could be extras in Murder on the Nile.

Ros (Maggie Mash), George (Murray Edscer), Cal and Linda (Jane Oakshott)
The atmosphere changes, first of all when George is made to answer questions about his childhood fears and phobias. Spiders are mentioned, ingredients in Doug Sandle's previous play last year. George storms out, soon followed by peace-making Ros. Alone with Cal, Linda declares her love to him, to his great embarrassment, and gets into quite a state. Cal can handle Hilda, but not her. Tremulous to begin with, Linda becomes extremely distraught. She locks herself in the bathroom, which along with everything else is behind a tiny screen in the corner of the tiny stage. All very dramatic, and when Ros returns with an apologetic George, to be joined by a back-to-normal Linda, it is time for the bourgeois delights of tea and sustainable olives accompanied by a delightful chunk of local cheddar. Soon, everybody is in tune with everybody else and Cal is back with the prof, still musing on the connections between real life and histrionic versions of it. It is a comedy after all.

While eating chocolate cake afterwards, members of the audience were wondering whether Doug Sandle has got any more radio plays stuffed into his bottom drawers. Let's hope he has.  

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