"Sparkling comedy with talented cast"
by Janet Locke on 07/03/10

Time for a bit of head banging in this fast-paced comedy by Mark Giesser. Ray Shell directs this fine ensemble company and the action romps along with some wonderful comic moments.

First you have to get your head round the idea of two competing plant geneticists receiving messages in their heads from two distant antecedents who were competing frustrated Dutch tulip experts from four hundred years ago who died before the prize was in their hands - and if that sentence speeds along so does the action. Audrey Braddock, superbly played by Donna King, and the wonderfully funny Edward Kingham as Adrian Vanderpol, spark one another off as the present day geneticists who are not honest with each other, or themselves, as to the true nature of their research. Under the cover of conventional research they both covertly pursue the production of the elusive black tulip. Do they really want to advance scientific research with this secret pursuit or is it the thought of the valuable prize that is still on offer for the first person to achieve this?

Ambition, greed and betrayal are all wrapped up in Ray Shell's tight direction of the wordy script. The double playing of Tamzin Paskins as the graduate student Sheila Crouch and Cornelia Vanderpol, and the excellent Peter Gerald as Carolus Hoofdorn and Sergeant Ellsworth gives both the opportunity for some great comedy and allows the neat twist which ends the play.

Beth Thompson completes and complements this fine cast as her character is in conflict with both her mother and her lover, Adrian. She is also not all she seems as she is revealed as a secret agent, CIA, FBI, who knows? She thus completes the cycle of subterfuge and betrayal. Poor Adrian gets arrested as a suspected terrorist when Sergeant Ellsworth insists that his secret cache of tulip bulbs could be explosives. Any resemblance to modern corporate gambling, ambition, greed, terrorism and security fear is not merely coincidental.

There were some interesting lighting effects although at times some comedic moments were missed as they were played in near darkness. It is really important for lighting to keep up with the rapid action of a near farce production. However that is only a minor quibble in an otherwise cracking production.

At just over two hours Tulip Wars is too long so thank goodness for the Giant Olive's new, and comfortable, seats.

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