One topless sunbather, one family death and one neurotic astronomer. Cue Sunspots, a heartwarming yet complex romantic comedy.
Writer David Lewis presents the audience with a labyrinth of layers in his modern play, performed by The Leighton Buzzard Drama Group (LBDG), as the characters deal with themes including dementia, religion, sexuality, mortality, sibling rivalry, and, of course - the love bug!
So, if you’ve come thinking it’s a simple ‘rom com’, you’re in for a delightful journey of twists and turns...
Tom (Ben Clarke) is a hapless astronomer, well an amateur one, still living in the top room of his family home with his father’s telescope - that just happens to be pointing in the direction of a rooftop sunbather!
Tom, his sister Clare (Caroline Page), and mother, Olive (Barbara Springthorpe), have welcomed their globe-trotting brother and son, Joe (Carl Russell) back home after the recent death of their father.
Old relationships settle back into place, as Clare is convinced that Joe is ‘mum’s favourite’, while poor Joe is starting to lose count of how many times he’s had to ‘come out of the closet’ to his mother - a devout Catholic suffering from dementia.
On top of this, they discover that Tom, a hypochondriac, is desperate to get in touch with the sunbather - he’s spotted a curious mark on her back and is convinced she’s got cancer. But is Lola (Trish Turner) who we really think she is?
The key, as noted by director Bob Jones, was for the actors to deliver natural “emotionally-charged lines”, before switching to humour.
Ben captured Tom’s innocence very well, especially his nervous mannerisms.
He and Trish created a palpable tension between the two lovers desperate to make a good first impression with each other, and it was hard to believe that this was only Trish’s third LBDG show, as she transformed her character from shy and careful to frank and vivacious with ease.
Caroline gave a very honest performance of Clare, dealing with the pain of her mother’s illness, her late father’s coldness towards Tom, and her jealousy of Joe, as the audience’s heart went out to her.
Meanwhile, Carl, who had a natural flair for comedy and witty one-liners , balanced the different sides of sarcastic sibling Joe confidently; it really came across that Joe had spent his years soul-searching.
Thanks to the cast, the three siblings and their mother had a great family dynamic, with Olive’s need to keep hoovering “heavy traffic” areas always receiving a hearty laugh, while Clare and Joe had silly sibling squabbles!
Barbara did wonderful work with Olive, who was an audience favourite, playing a woman taking one of life’s cruelest illnesses in her stride.
Warm and charming, Olive is a strong soldier muddling through daily life after the death of her husband - and behind the heavy hoovering, does she know more secrets than we think?
With a banana fight, biopsy, and big twist, the play was certainly another success for LBDG, as the cast gave the audience just as many laughs as poignant questions about the fragility of life, and relationships and fitting-in.
You can see Sunspots today (Friday October 13) and Saturday October 14 at 8pm in the Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre.
Tickets for the show can be booked by calling the box office on 0300 300 8125 or alternatively by visiting www.leightonbuzzardlibrarytheatre.co.uk.