Fortunately, it is not every day the question arises of whether to save career and reputation at the expense of hurting the wife who has already done her best to ruin them.
Such a situation is generally found only on the stage or celluloid screen, where it can be exploited and forged into an agreeable two-hour entertainment.This is the case with Carrington V.C’, which opened at the Little Theatre Club on Wednesday night for a four-night run. It is a typical court-room drama in that only good production and fine acting can stop it from sliding into a dreary duologue between counsel and witness with an occasional brief respite while yet another witness takes the oath. Frank Bentley, who has had considerable experience of theatricals, has striven to avoid the pitfalls and keep the play moving at a fast pace. He succeeds admirably up to a point, helped by some noteworthy acting from the main characters.
Surmounting the hurdle of both producing and acting in a play – not an advisable thing to do if it can be avoided – Frank Bentley manages to bring out the main points of the drama. It is only in the finer points that the play slips up. That is mainly due to some indifferent acting from some of the secondary characters, many of whom have given Mombasa audiences memorable performances in the past. For instance, the members of the court martial do not convey the dignity and bearing of high-ranking officers. They have little to do during the main part of the proceedings but, given a chance to make dramatic impact when considering their verdict, they appear to be deciding instead whether or not to go abroad for their holidays.
As the president of the court, Arthur Ratcliff does not make the most of the sarcastic comments designed to liven up the court proceedings. Charles Rylands took over at the last minute as the Judge Advocate. He performs capably but, on the first night, had not entered fully into his part. Another character with little time for rehearsal, John Grigor, puts up a fine performance as the hated Lt-Col. Henniker. He avoids over-acting and puts over his points with a natural polish. Similar compliments can be made of the major characters. Val Hamilton is good as the amorous little WRAC captain but Liz Stephens, as Carrington’s wife, does not quite give the impression of a woman convalescing from a nervous breakdown, neither does she appear to be properly offended with her husband’s adultery.
Bob Harrison’s portrayal of the considerate, almost soft-hearted prosecutor is of a high standard, equaled only by that of Frank Bentley’s in the title role.They are well supported by Bill Hurst as Carrington’s friend and guard, and Ian Hamilton as the prosecutor’s innocent assistant. David Murch and Dave Marshall add just enough military grandeur to the proceedings and Harbhajan Singh makes the most of his part as a reporter.
Verdict: Insufficient attention to minor, light distractions, but generally fine acting more than pulls the play through.