Dark comedy means a happy Anniversary for The Florians
WHEN Nicholas Nicol was looking for a play to direct for local drama club The Florians, he settled down for a long trawl through its list of available plays.
Fortunately for him, he did not need to go any further than A.
Coming across Bill MacIlwraith’s dark family comedy The Anniversary, Nicol recalled seeing the 1968 film version starring legendary Hollywood diva Bette Davis as the one-eyed matriarch who still dominates her adult sons.
"I always liked that and I thought it would be fun to do," he said.
"It’s a wee bit different to the stuff we usually do. It’s described as a black comedy, but it’s not that black really. Just that Mum’s a bit of a character who very much rules the roost."
It also had the not inconsiderable benefit of being relatively straightforward to cast after Nicol’s original plan to stage an Agatha Christie play floundered on a shortage of younger male actors.
"I thought: I can definitely cast this. It’s all very well having a play to do, but you have to have the people to do it," Nicol pointed out.
However, Nicol was able to draft in three willing volunteers to play the three sons, Ashley Taylor (who also has experience of donning an eye-patch in Florians’ service as a panto villain), Benedict Donnelly and Andrew Gull.
Ashley is joined in the cast by his wife Lynn, although they are not playing a couple.
Instead Ashley’s Terry is paired with Lesley MacLean as his shrewish wife Karen while Lynn plays opposite Donnelly’s youngest brother Tom as his independent minded girlfriend Shirley.
"They all seem to be enjoying it," Nicol added.
"It’s been a happy production. I’m just looking forward to getting it in front of the public. I was very lucky in that we just seemed to have people available who suited the parts."
More often on Florians’ duty as actor, Nicol admitted to finding it more stressful to take on directing responsibilities, a stress that would not necessarily be relieved when the play goes before the public next Wednesday.
"Instead of feeling nervous for yourself, you start feeling nervous for the cast," he said.
Although he did consider updating the production, Nicol eventually decided to stick to the play’s original 1960s setting, which means the set might bring back some memories for members of the audience.
"That’s the good thing about this set. It always reminds you of some relative’s house," Ashley said.
The action is set on the day of Mum’s wedding anniversary party – one that she insists on keeping despite her husband having been dead for a decade.
As the evening goes on, the sons reveal their plans and secrets, invoking the anger of their mother.
Stepping into the shoes of the great Bette Davis has been great fun for Anne Bamborough who is relishing bringing out her bad side for this anniversary party.
"It’s a wonderful chance to release my inner bitch," she laughed.
"She’s wonderfully rude. You would never get away with being so rude in real life without anyone hitting you!
"But some might say that with this part, I don’t have to do any acting!"
• The Florians will perform The Anniversary by Bill MacIlwraith at the Florians Theatre, Bught Avenue, Inverness, from Wednesday June 1 to Saturday 4 at 7.30pm this evening.