"Blackmail to salvation in trivial world of am dram"
Review, Trivial Pursuits, Stevenage Lytton Players, Lytton Theatre, Vardon Road

Amateur theatre is a very insular business - only the world of am-dram is interested in the world of am-dram.

When an operatic society is deciding which will be its next musical, and some of its members are attending a summer barbecue at which this will be announced, their livelihoods, their very beings, their entire reason for living might be at stake. But should we care?

The title of Frank Vickery's play Trivial Pursuits gives the game away instantly and suggests not. The plot of this piece, directed last week by Roger Brown for the Stevenage Lytton Players, revolved around various members' various efforts to affect this decision. These ranged from blackmail to financial salvation for the society, with stops along the way at lust and pity, and I was hoping for an ending which could be classed as 'none of the above'. Would director Nick (played by Mike Collier) take the money offered by successful local businessman Derek to cast his estranged wife, and use it to pay off the society's debts? Yep,in the end he did exactly that.

Perhaps this philanthropic outcome was the intended surprise - this was, after all, a very self-indulgent group of people. From local housing officer Teddy (choice of role: Curly in Oklahoma!), forcefully played by Dominic Baker, to Lesley Humphries's alcoholic Joyce (last debacle: Calamity Jane), via recent newcomer Jessica (on a promise to be Gigi), played by Allie Neal, these weren't the most sympathetic people you're ever likely to meet.

If the plot wasn't the strongest element, then the characterisations had to be. Maybe it's no coincidence that the two most realistic performances were those of the two most agreeable characters, estranged husband and wife Derek (Terry Budin-Jones) and Deirdre (Katy Love).

Despite their impending divorce, their concern for each other was believable, not least because of its understatement. I liked Jennie Clements's Pearl as well, and the aforementioned Mr Collier.

This production was played out on a realistic (if slightly garish) set, one of the better sets I've seen at this small theatre, but the visual and vocal attack reflected some characterisations that were a shade overdone, although maybe that was the fault of the script. To their credit, everyone involved played with confidence and commendable pace, but with all the bitchiness and back-stabbing on show, I struggled to accept that this was a group of people who would choose to spend any more time with each other than was absolutely necessary. I hope the Lyttons didn't choose this play because they felt at home with it. That would be too awful to contemplate.

Russell Vincent The Mercury, December 2007 Reproduced by kind permission of the Hertfordshire Mercury