Comic Potential

Thursday, 14 October, 1999

The story is set in the future when soap stars have been replaced by Actoids. Adam's dream is realised when he finally gets the opportunity to meet his hero, Chandler. Chandler used to direct comedy films, but because of his tempestuous behaviour he is now reduced to directing soap operas with Actoids.

Actoids are programmed to perform any emotional response that is needed in a scene. However, one Actoid called 'Jacie' develops an emotion of its own, it has developed a sense of humour! When Adam discovers this he writes a script for the Actoid and tries to persuade Chandler to direct the play. However, there are many problems to overcome, least of all trying to get the approval of Carla Pepperbloom, the mean programme co-ordinator. However, the real fun starts when Adam falls in love with the Actoid.

OK, the story may sound a little corny and silly, but it is well written and very believable and is both touching and charming. For the play to work though it needs the right actor to play Jacie and in Janie Dee the perfect actor has been found. She is a sensation, producing in my opinion an Olivier Award performance that is a joy to witness. She won an Olivier Award in 1993 for her performance as 'Carrie Pipperidge' in Nicholas Hytner's production of "Carousel" at the National, and I think another is on its way. Her range of acting skills is expressed here as she performs a wide selection of role types. There are also fine performances from David Soul as the overbearing alcoholic Chandler Tate,  and Matthew Cottle as the wimpish Adam. I was also impressed with Jacqueline King's performance as the dominating man-eater Carla Pepperbloom, and John Branwell who plays many roles with conviction and hilarious affectation.

The show has received favourable notices from the popular press: NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says, " Ayckbourn's world of robots is a virtual comic delicacy." CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Android's masterclass in comic timing... marvellously rich evening of pure pleasure." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE Of THE TIMES says, "Comic Potential is partly satire, partly speculation, partly good fun - and, I fear, partly a display of improbably soapish sentimentality from a dramatist who was once reliably dark, bleak, fatalistic, downbeat and British. "RONA LEVIN of TELETEXT says, This looks like a vehicle solely to display Janie Dee's talents. Luckily she is brilliant as the TV soap star android."

Comic Potential is an enjoyable 2 hours 45 minutes of fun and I highly recommend it.

(Darren Dalglish)

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