John Waterhouse – Playwright and Author

‘How to relax in Andalucia’ at the Capitol Theatre, Manchester and Buxton Festival.

Unity 2
‘The show played to a relatively large and extremely enthusiastic house, who really enjoyed the comedy that John Waterhouse champions.’
By David Martin from Oldham Coliseum.

Capital Theatre, Manchester
I went to see How to Relax in Andalucía by John Waterhouse at the Capitol Theatre at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The show played to a relatively large and extremely enthusiastic house, who really enjoyed the comedy that John Waterhouse champions; that flavoured with the memory of Carry On films and the classics of television in the 70s. Casagua’s customers really appreciated the work and went home very satisfied with their night out. Their appreciation was vocal and unrestrained; they were both entertained and uplifted.

I suspect that I’m not quite from the target market of the show, but I was impressed by the gentle humour of the piece and by the comic timing of Karl Seth’s Peter, whose attempts to find a quiet holiday were constantly thwarted by the people he encountered at his back-packers hotel. I felt his pain as his plans were disrupted by the other characters in the play and I enjoyed his complex and convoluted interactions with them. If I do have a criticism here, it is that these people are somewhat lightly drawn and perhaps tending towards the stereotypical, although I do appreciate that this approach does capture the genre that John is using.

The first half romps along with quick fire scenes and delightfully groan-worthy jokes and double entendres. At the interval we seem to be nicely set up for some farcical encounters during the second half. Although the second half maintains the jokes and is greatly helped by Seth’s performance, I did find that it lost some momentum.

The settings were minimal, but were all that were really needed to support and illustrate the action and I appreciate that the budget for the piece was small. I do think that perhaps more could have been made of the opportunity to create a more sympathetic ambitious lighting design.

I’m curious to see what will happen when the same company work out How to Relax in Amsterdam in the near future.

David Martin

Executive Director

Buxton Fringe Festival,
Reviewed by Yvonne Cawley

I’ve lived in the High Peak for 12 years, but I must admit that even though I knew of the existence of the Buxton Fringe, and have heard people talking about how diverse, professional and entertaining the programme of events are, I’ve never actually been to anything or even looked at what’s on offer (tut, tut!) – until now that is. For those of you who don’t know, or have never been to the Fringe (shame on you!! – see I can say that now I’ve been), it began in 1980 to run concurrently with the world-renowned Buxton Festival, with its international opera and high profile literary talks at its core.

The Fringe provides a showcase for performers and artists of all kinds and utilises a variety of different venues. Dance, drama, music, poetry, comedy, film, exhibitions and magic are just some of the forms that have appeared. And the Fringe Committee doesn’t undertake any selection, censorship, financing or selective promotion of individual events and aim to promote and encourage an atmosphere where artists can take risks and experiment with their art – whatever form it takes. So why doesn’t Manchester have a similarly independent and vibrant fringe festival – too many of nanny’s apron strings maybe?

So why this year, and why this comedy in particular? Well, a few months ago, along with my husband, I attended a cracking little play at the Three Minute Theatre in Manchester called ‘Shades of Diva’ (click to read review), and after the show we got chatting to various members of the cast and crew. Nicole Gaskell who brilliantly portrayed the character of the sour and unsupportive mother in that play, mentioned that she was going to be performing in a comedy called How to relax in Andalucia as part of the Buxton Fringe Festival. She encouraged us to go see her in this production to prove that she can do ‘funny’ as well as ‘uptight and miserable’ – mind you I hasten to add that Nicole has a delightful and friendly personality off-stage, already proving what a great actress she is.

The play was performed in the Buxton Community School’s Drama Studio which was perfect for the occasion – compact and kitched out with professional lighting, sound and fairly comfortable seating. Before going into the Studio, the audience gathered in what appeared to be a School Hall, where complementary drinks (soft ones only as this was a school) and biscuits were laid on. It was a nice touch as it gave us all chance to sit and chat with other members of the audience, the majority of whom I spoke to being regular “Fringers”.

The audience was mainly made up of the ‘over 40’s’, me included, and the only reason I mention this is because I have just read another review that suggests that this play “would appeal to a more mature audience who prefer their comedies to be gentle on the ear”. If this means the play contains no profanities, bleeding heart revelations or a constant, non-stop machine gun delivery of lines or jokes then yep, this is probably correct, but as one of the ‘older lot’ give me that any day. Also, John Waterhouse the writer, has listed 1960s and 1970s British comedy as his special interest and I can see his obvious enthusiasm of this era permeating through this production.

How to Relax in Andalucia is not quite ‘Carry-Onesque’ but it was reminiscent of the kinds of TV comedy programmes I grew up with (what I call ‘proper’ comedy) with a little bit of slapstick thrown in (although I did think that particular scene was a little bit over-the-top). There is the odd, out-of-kilter and un-PC comments and sexism, which are funny as the female characters are so much richer than their male counterparts, yet all presented in a refreshing way where the audience are trusted to ‘make up their own mind’ about, rather than the contemporary self-censored PC tosh so prevalent today. The actors seemed to respond with a spirit to match.

The setting for the play is a small and usually quiet pension in Andalucia and sees the main character, Peter (played by Karl Seth) aiming to just read and relax by the pool in order to forget his recent divorce and loss of job. This turns out to be easier said than done, as interruption after interruption by various guests annoy and frustrate poor Peter’s desire to be left alone; he isn’t interested in their lives or frivolous conversations, though tries to be polite despite his obvious annoyance. However, events conspire to draw him into the lives of the other guests at the pension, including a kidnapping followed by a visit from the MET’s Detective Inspector Ron Wilson (menacingly played by Dave Egerton), resulting in a couple of overnight stayers in his room (but I won’t spoil it for you). The guests include a mysterious and extremely aloof English lady called Carol (played convincingly by Rebecca Fenwick) who is the ex-girlfriend of an English gangster and ‘on the run’ – but from what exactly?

Then there is Saskia (Nicole Gaskell) a Dutch backpacker and Mick (Chris Pavlou) a loud Australian who loves to help himself from the bar, whilst Christina (Aligail Hibbert) the waitress is away. Yes the characters are very stereotypical and clichéd but it worked well., and some of the accents were a little dodgy though providing some additional titters. It was only a two-night run so understandablly a little rough around the edges. It was funny when Carol ditched her high class toff accent for that of a more down to earth scouser. When Mick suggested that he could ditch his Australian accent and take on the persona of a high class gent, Peter was astounded at such a suggestion and with a sublime English shake of the head indicated that a mere Aussie had no chance of getting away with that – strewth!

For me this was a thoroughly enjoyable play, where it didn’t matter that the individual characters didn’t have lots of depth or angst or issues, it was a good old fashioned comedy. Some of the puns and jokes were I suppose ‘groanable’ by some people’s standards, but the audience did laugh loads, as I did. I went to be entertained and to have a laugh, which I certainly did. The set itself was basic in layout but as the play all revolved around the pool and bar area of the Spanish pension it was perfectly adequate and no need to clutter the stage with useless props. Perhaps in line with the spirit of the festival, being allowed around school unsupervised was unusual, and in keeping with grown-ups playing out for the evening.

John Waterhouse’s first foray to the Buxton Fringe was a confident and accomplished effort, and I would now like to see one of his productions in his more familiar territory of Salford Arts Theatre.

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