"Sexy script explores sub-conscious self-denial"
by Arthur Duncan for remotegoat on 22/03/17

Phil Booth, the self-effacing dramatist, imaginatively explores the mind of a bored 21st century woman and releases an entertaining stream of possibilities that she seems unaware are seething, deeper in the pockets of her mind.

Philippa Howard magnificently conveys Helen’s past fifteen years behind a desk, typing up reports and pausing to answer the phone with impeccable enunciation, all with a good grace. Soon, politely intruding, comes Winston J Pyke as Dennis, wearing overalls more appropriate for a manual-labouring department in the firm. An incongruous pairing, yet together, sparring with sharp-pointed weapons – the playwright’s incisive words – they are a dream-ticket partnership, creating theatre of very high calibre.

Faultless performances from both Pyke and Howard impart a sense of inner well-being to the audience, who share with these actors, their harmony of purpose, the epitome for performers at the top of their game. ... But where’s Colin? His head looms large in the person of Alan Wales, finding himself in a bedroom predicament - and he performs very well on a bed. Say no more. Words and action in this funny-peculiar play are amusing indeed.

Colin’s Head is arguably one of the wittiest scripts put on stage at The Alma Tavern for some time, and probably among the best acted. Jokes are frequent but so subtly slipped in, they can easily be missed; but this isn’t a play at which one is likely to nod-off. The language entices attention and visually, Howard and Pyke provide continuous occupation for the eyes. A sweet duet composed by the author and delightfully sung by the duo, adds more pleasure.

Julian Adams designed the excellent set, nicely enhanced with sound & lights by Serge Rouyer Guillet, and operated precisely by Will Ewart-James.

‘Colin’s Head’ was inspired by the eternal conflict between the pious human instinct for propriety and good order, versus libertine debauchery, the ever-present temptation fomented in worshippers of Dionysus, God of wine and unrestrained pleasures of the flesh - opposing forces that threaten to rip asunder, the lives of so many down the ages.

As so often, with quality shows at The Alma, the usual run of six performances in five days is too short to do justice to the team who have worked diligently to give value-for-money entertainment to their patrons, but good news for fans of Groundswell Productions is that a few more performances are forthcoming at The Rondo in Bath, a week or maybe two, after Bristol. Yet ‘Colin’s Head’ would be well-received in the fringe theatres of London and Merseyside, where the appetite for intelligent live-drama is no less keen than is ours in Bristol.

In this reviewer's confident opinion, Phil Booth ranks at least equal with Pinter in his writing about human dilemmas for small casts of characters. (Please see Remotegoat reviews of ‘Three For Two’ last year). His narrative’s might lack Pinter’s obscurity, and Booth’s scripts are certainly more laughable than is Pinter’s morose downbeat tone, but Booth's plays are definitely more enjoyable and communicate deeply challenging thought about individuality.

Oh, for a Broadsheet reviewer to proclaim the humble offerings from this Bristol-based playwright. Phil Booth and Groundswell Productions might then get the transfers and rewards this highly professional team rightly deserve, while metropolitan fringe theatregoers would be more-entertained into the bargain. Colin’s Head will be found in bed at The Alma only ‘til this Saturday, 25th March, 2017.

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