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Daphne, Tommy, The Colonel and Phil at the Union Theatre

Daphne, Tommy, The Colonel and Phil
Daphne, Tommy, The Colonel and Phil

Things are not what they appear to be in Daphne, Tommy, the Colonel and Phil, a play that spins on an absurd situation, replete with ludicrous characters and risible circumstances, but doesn’t quite make it as dramatic comedy or farce. Where it does hit a high note is in its portrayal of older people, not as characters in the twilight years of existence, but as individuals who confront intense situations as profound as those experienced by a younger generation, proving that change, resilience, upheaval and heartbreak – at any age – define the essence of life.

Writer/director Edwin Ashcroft, perhaps in an attempt to link the plot to current social issues, flirts with the topic of gender identity but, sadly, in creating Daphne, a character with a drag persona, it’s a negative throwback to an era when men dressed as women were merely a symbol of folly, derision and ridicule – think Mrs Brown’s Boys.

As the play begins, we meet Tommy (David Henry) enrapt in the glow of a laptop computer screen. Enter Daphne (Clifford Hume) replete with ridiculous blonde wig and frumpish dressing gown. We learn the characters have been married for 66 years. An overwrought argument ensues with lascivious lines such as ‘unload your burden… relieve your load on me‘.

Daphne is certain that Tommy is hiding something from her and she is right. It’s Tommy’s murky, past as a government secret agent, one with a guilty secret he can’t seem to shake off. It concerns an attempt to assassinate a leading North Korean general during the Korean war, and a colonel who was Tommy’s co-conspirator in the plot.

Tommy believes his cowardice at the time resulted in the colonel’s death. As he unburdens himself of his secret, it provides Daphne with the opportunity to reveal what she’s been hiding for the past 66 years. Think a bit and you’ll figure it out.

The appearance of a Tesco delivery boy named Phil (Edwin Ashcroft) introduces a focus and pacing to the play that elevates it to the possibilities it might achieve. The three characters engage in a pantomime punch up – coloured whirling lights and in slow motion (lighting design Henry Clarke) – more of this please and the play could be a delicious watch.

At the moment it is a thoughtful piece of writing, but still a work in progress.

3 Star Review

Review by Loretta Monaco

Imagine your wife turned out not to be quite the woman you thought…
This brilliantly fresh, hilariously surreal new comedy is a madcap domestic farce about an aged couple who discover that their seemingly perfect marriage is not all it appears to be. As a turbulent past crashes in on them, long-buried secrets turn into imminent danger. But can love conquer all?

In a peaceful rural backwater, the irrepressible Daphne and decorated military man Tommy have been blissfully married for sixty-six idyllic years.

But recently something’s been troubling Tommy: a terrible secret.

For decades he’s been haunted by the memories of a black ops mission gone-wrong during the Korean War, and the fallout from one fatal night is finally catching up with him.

With marital bliss on a collision course with the fast-approaching shadows of the past—and with decades of untruths unravelling—perils loom and chaos reigns.

Meanwhile, Daphne’s got a secret of her own. Quite a big one…

Starring David Henry (The Madness of George III dir. Nick Hytner, Mary Poppins dir. Richard Eyre) and Clifford Hume (Misalliance dir. Nick Reed, Aladdin dir. David Kemp).

a new comedy
A Thumb Tip Theatre production
By Edwin Ashcroft
23rd July – 3rd August 2019,
Union Theatre, Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, London SE1 0LR


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