A one-act play being staged at St Paul’s Cathedral this week should have you rolling in the aisles says ALIX NORMAN
It may have a dodgy-sounding title – visions of butchers and axe murderers spring to mind – but in fact The Flesh Game is anything but macabre. It’s a comedy, a light-hearted and titillating take on the intricacies of the all prevailing Health Farm, which follows six women in their quest to shed extra pounds. We’ve all been there: desperately trying to lose our saddlebags, bingo wings and muffin tops before bikini season – it’s a dreadful bore isn’t it? But The Flesh Game takes the whole issue of weight loss and turns it into a rollicking jaunt which will have women (and several men too, one imagines) rolling in the aisles.
Written by Rae Shirley, The Flesh Game is dedicated to “all would-be slimmers of whatever age, sex or creed in their efforts to fight the flab, and eschew the ever-present temptations of the flesh”. And, taking place under the auspices of the Women’s Friendship Group at St Paul’s, this one-act play was chosen specifically for its intended audience by director Jenny Iacovou.
“It’s much more difficult than you think to find a good one act play for women,” says this esteemed director, whose name is well known in amateur acting circles. A veteran of the Anglo-Cypriot Theatre scene, Jenny has always been drawn to directing, and has been the hand behind more than 14 productions over the years: The Doll’s House, Murder in the Cathedral, Major Barbara, An Inspector Calls and Antigone (both of which she has directed twice in her career) and The Mousetrap are just some of her past efforts.
“I think I’m drawn to directing because it’s very creative. It’s all about producing something new,” she says, adding the humble caveat that, inevitably, she wonders halfway through the process why on earth she’s doing it! “I always enjoy the play I’m doing at the time,” she says, “and The Flesh Game seemed eminently suitable. I had a selection of one-act plays sitting on my bookshelf, and having thought about how each would go down, this seemed to be the best choice. It’s amusing, great fun to do and manageable.”
This last is rather important: having directed casts of, if not hundreds, then at least a good 50-odd in productions such as Shakespeare’s King Lear, Jenny is well aware of theatrical constraints. “With just seven performers – all women – and one set, The Flesh Game is ideal for this type of one-act, evening performance,” she says. “The play was written in 1985, but it’s relevant for any time period. There aren’t any contemporary references – people still go to health farms of course – and though no specific towns or places are mentioned in the text, it’s definitely taking place in the UK.”
With all the action occurring ‘in the luxurious lounge of a modern Health Resort’ named El Dorado, one discovers that the six protagonists are all signed up for very different reasons. There’s Judith– a character who’s recently divorced, looking to shed a few pounds and ensnare a new husband; Carol –a young girl who wants to fit into her wedding dress; Rachel –an actress looking to slim down for an upcoming television role and Jane –who’s almost impossibly shy. Then there are the characters who bring a spot of intrigue to the plot: Jane’s sister Sandra is at the Health Farm for a bet (and has no compunctions about sneaking down to the local chippy when the constant diet of bran soup becomes a little tiring for her tastes). And it transpires that Sandra is actually an undercover journalist.
With the oppressive Nurse Burton (“Now we do like our lovely glass of lemon water for breakfast, don’t we?”) in constant attendance, the stage is set for a ripping good time. And any spectator can rest assured that not only are they in for a great evening, the price of their ticket is going where it’s most needed. “The Women’s Friendship Group at St Paul’s do so much for charity,” says Jenny. “It’s a wonderful, welcoming group that’s open to all English-speaking women in Cyprus, and they do amazingly good works on the island. They visit poor families, take them clothes, distribute food to the needy, visit people who are sick, and take children from poorer families on outings.”
So, if you’re looking for an evening of superb entertainment, safe in the knowledge that your money is going to a very worthy local cause, Tuesday and Wednesday’s performances of The Flesh Game are the places to be.
The Flesh Game
St Paul’s Parish Hall, Nicosia, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, May 13, under the auspices of the Women’s Friendship Group at St Paul’s. Light refreshments will follow the play; the bar will be open before and after the performance. Tickets cost €10 and are available by calling 99 753901. Wednesday May 14, tickets €7 as there will be no refreshments. Seating is limited, so guests are asked to book in advance to avoid disappointment. All proceeds will go to charity.