Henley Standard Review by Nicky Clarke
SONNING has always held a special place in my heart, I love the quaint village, the beautiful hotels and of course the river. Positioned in the heart of the village is the Mill, and having passed it too many times to mention, I have never had the opportunity to visit until recently. In 20 years of driving past and wondering it was a real treat to sample the whole “dinner theatre experience”. It is rare that somewhere exceeds your expectations, but the Mill at Sonning certainly exceeded mine.
The ambience and warmth of the building is instantly apparent as you step into this historic mill; the therapeutic noise of the water wheel was the perfect background to enjoy a pre-dinner drink. Watching the wheel rotate under careful lighting was entertainment in itself, but the smell of the food drew us from the bar to the dining room.
Intimate seating amongst the beams was just perfect for my husband to enjoy his pork with crackling while I tucked into chicken supreme with fresh vegetables and all the trimmings. The food was as fine as the setting. After coffee we made our way to the theatre, smaller than I had anticipated — I felt that we were almost part of the set!
The set looked simple, but was later to get applause of its own. Set in the reception area of the Westminster Hotel, the colouring and décor was perfect. My knowledge of the play Two Into One, a comedy by Ray Cooney, was limited so I had no idea of what to expect.
It was fast and furious from the outset, the energy and enthusiasm of the actors took little time to infect the audience as we laughed from one scene to the next. Nick Wilton playing George was amazing, his body posture, expressions and whole stage presence deserve a special mention, and this small stout little fellow became more hilarious and attractive as the play progressed.
With clever use of language and how simple it is to misunderstand and misinterpret situations, Cooney creates a comical situation with just a handful of characters, quick costume changes and superb one-liners. The audience laughed from beginning to end.
The play was set in current political times and was very much up-to-date, with references to Clegg and Cameron.
It also mimics the hotel industry, with the stiff-upper-lipped manager, the foreign housekeeper and the tip-grabbing waiter. The Westminster staff are every bit as funny as the guests.
Applause came when the set was transformed from a reception area into two adjacent bedrooms where much of the action took place. Set designer Douglas Heap created two hotel suites, perfect in every detail down to the bedside lamp. They also played host to a number of doors which were to be slammed on many an occasion.
What a pleasure it was to have an evening just full of laughter!