Moment of Weakness

Donald Churchill

Theatre Royal, Nottingham, then touring

(2003)

Review by Steve Orme

Comedy actors can to a certain extent be like stand-up comedians: they don't do their best material on television because once it's been aired they can't do it again. That's why it's always best to see them live on stage where they can get laughs night after night, yet at the same time not feel over-exposed.

Gwen Taylor is a good example. She may not always have had side-splitting lines to deliver on the small screen and some critics wonder how Carlton could have commissioned a second series of Barbara, let alone a third. But put her on the stage and it takes only a couple of minutes for an audience to realise what a wonderful actress she is.

In Donald Churchill's Moment of Weakness, she is teamed with Michael Jayston whose television and film credits are even more impressive. The pair of them are so experienced and such accomplished professionals that you instantly believe they are Audrey and Tony, the warring couple splitting the contents of their Wiltshire cottage after they've divorced, and forget all the characters they've played previously.

Michael Jayston originates from Nottingham and Gwen Taylor from Derby, just down the road, so whether their performances this week had extra sparkle is open to conjecture.

Donald Churchill was a great observer of life and audiences up and down the country must recognise some of the situations experienced by Audrey and Tony.

He is the documentary photographer who is outstandingly talented yet is impractical, unable to control his destiny and blinkered as to what matters most in his life. He left Audrey for a much younger woman and refuses to accept that Audrey had an affair while they were in Jamaica.

She is bossy, overbearing and unforgiving, yet can't make up her mind whether to get married again to a man who is so fastidiously tidy that he even vacuums the lawn.

On hearing that Tony's new wife has had a baby and everything has gone well, she exclaims: "I knew it would be easy for her. She's got those wonderful peasant hips!" It may not look funny on paper but Gwen Taylor delivered it to almost hysterical laughter.

Their daughter Lucy adds to the complex relationships by revealing snippets to each parent about the other which she had sworn not to divulge. Clare Buckfield has a difficult job in a relatively small role as the headstrong, independent youngster who tries to get her parents back together. Her timing is good; she is not out of place in such esteemed company.

Directed by David Taylor, Moment of Weakness is a light comedy with occasional moments of hilarity which leaves you with a feelgood factor at the end. Better than sitting in front of the box any day of the week!