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Improbable Fiction by Alan Ayckbourn was performed by Lyndhurst Drama & Musical Society

THIS gem by Alan Ayckbourn is about the weekly meeting of a writers’ circle.

Phil Rainforth was brilliant as the rather bemused chairman, Arnold Hassock, who translates foreign instruction manuals – making him the only published author!

The other characters are introduced as they arrive during a snowstorm. First was versatile Hannah Rogers as Ilsa Wolby, his mother’s kindly carer who also looks after Arnold. Next was Di Buck as the terrific bolshy, doom-laden Jess Bates, a busy farmer full of ideas for historical romances but who never sets anything down.

Improbable Fiction - Lyndhurst Music and Drama Society
Improbable Fiction - Lyndhurst Music and Drama Society

Ingrid Bond was the enthusiastic but insecure Grace Sims who is determined to finish her children’s story, Doblin the Goblin, before her teenage offspring leave home and Cally van der Pauw was Vivvi Dickens, an ambitious but unpublished author of detective novels who can’t stop writing.

Vic Milne was great fun as Clem Pepp, who imagines conspiracy-theory science fiction (or as he stressed ‘Science Fact’) stories but is afraid to put anything down in fear of ruining all he has dreamt up.

This incurs the wrath of imperious, cantankerous retired schoolteacher Brevis Winterton (realistically portrayed by Richard Barnett), who creates musicals – ‘music and book, not lyrics’.

He is working on a new musical adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress but is stuck over the last song in the Slough of Despond.

As everyone in the group is experiencing writers’ block, Arnold suggests they pool ideas but as nothing can be agreed, the meeting ends and they disperse.

Suddenly there is crash of thunder, a scream with a fleeting glance of Victorian characters and a woman brandishing a dagger before the curtain falls on Act 1.

Act 2 picks up from the end of Act 1, as Jess narrates the story while the rest of the company with the exception of Arthur are frozen.

As each member adopts a new role, the play that emerges is a blending of the various authors’ work-in-progress, (each divided by a power cut, a ‘frozen’ cast and Jess’s introduction), zigzagging back and forth from Victorian melodrama, to 1930s detective cliffhanger, to absurd sci-fi mystery turned children universally took on their new personae with great aplomb and the slick, costume changes, lighting and staging effects, show excellent technical proficiency and a skilled backstage crew.

Stevie Parker made a good fist of her first directorial role creating a wonderfully amusing evening which kept me engaged throughout.

Alison Smith

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