Review: Fiddlers Three, by Eric Chappell, The Jill Freud Company, St Edmunds Hall, Southwold till July 30 and Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, August 2 – 6.

Fiddlers Three, by Eric Chappell, The Jill Freud Company, St Edmunds Hall, Southwold till July 30 and Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, August 2 – 6.

Inside the offices of Multiple Holdings three accounts clerks try to not only avoid the sack but achieve promotion.

Rex (Richard Blain), an anxious father of three with a ten-year-old Ford Cortina and burgeoning bills, is temporarily in the chair of a former senior colleague who has collapsed and is destined never to return.

When the office junior, Osborne (Mark Jackson), is threatened with losing his job, Harry (Andrew Bone) suggests they all threaten to resign – starting with Rex.

So this comedy of office politics gets under way, soon to be enriched by the entry of Norma, the mini-skirted “office totty”, played by the very watchable Rosanna Miles, and Rex’s harassed but capable wife, Ros, intelligently portrayed by Imogen Slaughter.

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Later, the battle for promotion leads to some very devious moves in a war of attrition as the three candidates await interview by Bryan Heath, a senior manager with a somewhat unconventional selection procedure, played with a nice air of authority by Paul Hegarty.

There are some very funny lines in Chappell’s play which is set in 1979 – before office life was revolutionised by the personal computer and when accounts clerks were still pouring over ledgers trying to balance the books. But anyone who worked in an office will recognise the tensions which abound.

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The play – having its professional debut at Southwold – was apparently developed from the scripts of two episodes written for television and this may explain why the end of scene punch lines do not work so well with this stage performance as they might do with a camera helping the viewer.

However, the cast keep up a terrific pace in this slick production, directed by Anthony Falkingham who, in his programme notes, likens the depiction of characters to the phenomenally successful Rising Damp television series.

Terry Molloy, who plays Fletcher, the clerks’ boss, does a very good impression of Leonard Rossiter but one could not help thinking it would have been more interesting for the audience and the actor had a new character and voice had been found.

Like the rest of cast, Molloy has excellent comic timing and, with he and his fellow actors working hard to create the comic situations, audiences are in for an entertaining evening of titters and outright laughs.

David Green

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