Pools Paradise - performed June 1987

By Philip King

Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French

Director - Dennis Murfitt


(in order of appearance)

Penelope Toop Allison Brett
Ida Debi Koval
Reverend Lionel Toop Dave Turrell
Miss Skillon Viv Wheatley
Willie Briggs Kevin Brown
Reverend Arthur Humphrey Bert Yeates
The Bishop of Lax Alan Breckels

Production Team

Val Taylor, Jude Hussey, Jenny Rollings, Chris Mason, Dennis Murfitt, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Greg Garrad, Jane Cousins, Jenny Glayzer, Gill Baxter, Patience Ling, Viv Wheatley, and other volunteers not mentioned.

The Play

Zany, madcap events transpire at the Reverend Lionel Toop's vicarage in Merton cum Middlewick. The plot revolves around Lionel's wife, Penelope, who dabbles in a football pool with the help of their maid, Ida, and Ida's suitor, the droll Willie Briggs. The most fantastic complications ensue when the triumvirate wins or when they think they have won more than 20,000 pounds. Lending richly comic hands are the old maid parishioner, Miss Skillon, and Penelope's out of this world uncle, The Bishop of Lax. What happens when these assorted characters all get together on one stage has to be seen to be believed.


Philip King’s comfortably dated farce may not be in the same dizzy class as the author’s deservedly famous “See how they run” but the familiar theme of cavorting clerics losing their trousers in a welter of cross-purposes still appeals to an audience bent on undemanding entertainment.
Denis Murfitt’s amusing production has the benefit of a very good set indeed, whose angled walls laugh at the constraints of this small stage and after a one-paced first act, the fun waxes fast and furious.

Alison Brett, very well made up in the style of the period, needs rather more flamboyance in her actress-married-to-a-vicar and Debi Koval a somewhat lower vocal register to bring out the non-stop impact of the maid, Ida. Dave Turrell’s incumbent also sounds a little ponderous instead of pompous-labourer rather than stuffy. Viv Wheatley’s Miss Skillon is a splendid blend of pillar-of-the-community, adoring spinster and forcibly efficient dragon and is quite the best thin on view throughout, but she is pressed hard by Kevin Brown’s gormless Willie Briggs who manages to combine engaging vacuity with lubriciousness in hilarious fashion.
Bert Yeates could do with more pace and better pick-up as the vague and kindly Reverend Humphrey but Alan Breckels’ almost throw-away Bishop of Lax is a model of reactive, often silent comments that speaks volumes. With all that sober black-suiting around, Penelope might have been much more colourfully dressed to suggest both her temperament and previous occupation but otherwise the wardrobe is in keeping and the curtain-call a lovely little touch of humour.
Jimmy James

Manningtree-based Manifest Theatre Group has added yet another hit to a long line of successes with its latest production, Pools Paradise, which opened at the Oxford Road theatre on Tuesday.. Bumbling clerics, a scatty maid and a designing spinster are combined with a well-laid plot and a large portion of general confusion – just the ingredients for a laughter-filled evening.
The play, a farce by Philip King, is the last of the current season’s productions and after an initial slow start, kept the audience chuckling as the three main characters warmed to their parts. Produced and directed by Dennis Murfitt, the action, set in the early 1960s, took place in the lounge of the vicarage of the small village of Merton-cum-Middlewick and centred on a possible big pools win for the wife of the vicar, who strongly disapproves of gambling of any kind.

There was a cast of just seven and it was hard to judge who was the star performer – the vicar or the maid. Dave Turrell was outstanding as the Rev Lionel Toop while Debi Koval as the maid Ida, after appearing to overact at the beginning, got better and better as the plot unfolded.
Allison Brett was excellent as the vicar’s one-time actress wife, Viv Wheatley, with her sights set firmly on the vicar, gave another competent performance and Kevin Brown was especially endearing as the maid’s rather simple boyfriend. They were ably supported by Bert Yeates and Alan Breckels.

Photo Shoot

If you have any photos from this production, then please let us know.

Bert, Alan, Debi, Kevin, Allision, Viv, Dave