I HAVE always admired The Mill at Sonning for inviting the press to opening nights.
Some theatres don't let us in until their latest production has had time to 'settle down', but not so at Sonning. They bravely open their doors to one and all and give us credit for our integrity.
But with their latest production, 'Boys Will Be Boys', I wish I could have seen it once it had 'settled down'.
Presenting the first ever performance of a new play is nerve-wracking enough for any playwright, especially when it's a comedy and hasn't been 'tried out' on an audience. But when that playwright also happens to be the director and the leading man (or is it woman in this case!), it must be a positive nightmare, especially when he knows the press are there, sitting in judgement.
And so it was that Simon Williams presented his 'new baby' to the world this week. On this occasion, he was also playing a nervous character, so it was all just a bit too harrowing - and, I'm afraid, it showed.
'Boys Will Be Boys' is the sequel to Simon's hit comedy 'Nobody's Perfect', in which romantic novelist Lenny Loftus becomes his non-existent Aunt Myrtle when he wins a competition open only to women writers.
Three years and several prizewinning novels later, Lenny feels it's time to 'kill off' Aunt Myrtle and, bearing in mind the success of 'Nobody's Perfect', it was a production to which I was hugely looking forward.
First night nerves aside - and the nervous energy emanating from the stage was tangible - 'Boys Will Be Boys' obviously still has to be worked on.
When 'Nobody's Perfect' was first performed it wasn't a patch on the final production, so there's hope for it yet.
The idea is good enough. In fact, the way it is presented, which at first caught the audience completely unawares, is bang up-to-the-minute and very imaginative.
There are some lovely throwaway lines in it, but at the moment they are outweighed by lots of unnecessary corn, especially from Lenny's father, played by Gareth Thomas.
I expect that, once Simon's first night nerves settle down, things won't be so manic. It may be that he is being just a little self indulgent - certainly, he couldn't be more involved - but, on the opening night, it looked as if he was getting a bit too carried away and the play became farcical, while Lenny was too sad a character.
Top marks, though, to Amy Williams, Simon's daughter (on and off stage), who held the whole thing together with a lively competence, while Karen Ascoe, as Lenny's ex-wife, brought depth and the right kind of emotion to the production.
'Boys Will Be Boys' continues at The Mill at Sonning until August 2 and then goes to the Theatre Royal Windsor, by which time I'm sure it'll have improved beyond recognition.
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Last updated on 27th of July 2003.