Review by Maria Donovan
An hour full of warm laughter and sharply-observed comedy was enjoyed by an enthusiastic sell-out audience at Bridport Arts Centre on Thursday 8 November.
The writing trio Three-she (Gail Aldwin, Sarah Scally and Maria Pruden) gave us seven sketches, brilliantly performed by Declan Duffy, Sally Hunt, Dewi Lambert and Lee Wyles, effortlessly switching roles and bringing all to life with just a few props.
The venue was the café, transformed for the evening into a bijou theatre. Maria Pruden introduced the evening and narrated, while Gail Aldwin and Sarah Scally performed (mainly unseen) miracles to keep the evening running without a pause.
Sweet Charity’ comes in four episodes and provides continuity and a kind of comic refrain as we catch up with Declan Duffy on his trail of woe. His performance elicits both sympathy and laughter (how we enjoy another person’s discomfort, when we know we’re allowed to be amused!).
Declan plays a charity collector going door to door, negotiating the difficulties presented by an unseen man (Dewi Lambert with a god-like voice), who won’t open up, a small dog (brilliantly yapped by Maria Pruden) and a seemingly-sympathetic woman (Lee Wiles dispensing tea and increasingly-sinister offers of cake).
Sandwiched between these episodes come three separate sketches. The first of these is ‘Killer Ladybugs’, in which Lee Wiles plays a ladybird returning home after a visit to her nephew’s wedding. She finds herself in difficulties as a bug with ‘the wrong number of spots’ attempting to get round Declan Duffy as a border guard with a new set of rules. His accent places him in one of the southern states of the USA and we soon leap to make the political connections, played out in this surreal context.
The references are just as topical today as they were when I saw this sketch in its infancy in the Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis a couple of years ago. As then, the disappearance of the ‘bugs’ from the stage engenders applause but there’s a sting in the coda with the appearance of a child, exuberantly played by Sally Hunt, to round things off.
The title sketch takes place on Easter Island with Dewi Lambert making a welcome appearance as he literally takes up a central role, flanked by Sally Hunt and a slantwise and silent Declan Duffy. These are the three ‘Big Heads’.
From their immoveable positions they observe what they can see of the world, each other’s behaviour and the visiting ‘oomans’. The contrast of their fixed positions with the mobility of their faces and (for Sally and Dewi) their nimbleness of voice and words is hilarious and proved a big hit with the audience.
‘Baby Love’ brings us to a bus stop, and a familiar Dorset scene, whereby two women of very different ages and aspects attempt a conversation while waiting for the arrival of the X51. Again, beautifully-characterised performances by Sally Hunt and Lee Wyles.
An intervention by Maria Pruden, in her role as prompt, only seemed to add to the audience’s enjoyment, as what could have been a glitch was handled with humour and panache by all concerned.
In all, a very funny, sharply-written set of sketches resulting from the ‘Three-she’ collaboration. Such a marvellous variety of characters and themes, all held together by performances that were somehow relaxed as well as energetic and full of the confidence that immediately has a warming effect on the audience. Great comic timing in both the writing and delivery.
More about Three-she
Paisley Shirt, Gail Aldwin’s collection of short fiction was long listed in the best short story category of the Saboteur Awards 2018. A novel and a pamphlet of poetry have been accepted for publication in 2019. You can find Gail @gailaldwin and at gailaldwin.com
Sarah has had radio plays broadcast on Bridport FM and Phonic FM. She has completed a fantasy novel for young adults and is currently writing a murder mystery set in the USA.
Maria enjoys writing short stories, plays and sketches. She has had two radio plays recorded for broadcast on Bridport FM and is currently collaborating with four others on a screenplay.