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The Weevil in the Biscuit

One thing I love about the theatre is its intimacy. Film and television does a fine job of creating tension and drama, but it can never quite remove the barrier that separates the subject matter from the audience. Watching a play is a completely different experience: as a member of the audience, you’re invited in to share the unfolding drama.

John Foster’s masterful play, The Weevil in the Biscuit, opens at Skerryvore, home of the great novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. ‘Louis’ is suffering the effects of tuberculosis. He complains frequently, between coughing-fits and convulsions, watched over by long-suffering wife and nursemaid, Fanny.

Forced to endure the indignity of his seaside convalescence, Louis’ frustration mounts. Bournemouth, he claims, is no place for a master storyteller and will surely stifle his talent completely. Full of morphine and barely lucid, he takes to his sickbed – there to have the most wonderful dream. The Muse, he tells Fanny, has come to him in his sleep and given him the material for his next bestseller!

The Weevil in the Biscuit is a charming tale that keeps you intrigued and entertained until the end. Mark Freestone is an energetic and convincing Louis, whose self-indulgent ramblings are skilfully handled by Fanny – brilliantly underplayed by Elaine Harry. I loved the comic interplay between the two, and the depth and humour they brought to their very different characters.

Writers in the audience will identify with Louis’ envy of other novelists – namely Thomas Hardy, who was born of humble stock. The curse of celebrity is also explored – Louis’ bitterness at having to live up to the success of his previous masterpiece ‘Treasure Island.’ We witness his heroic struggle with his illness, and his devotion to his work; his reliance on Fanny to cater to all his needs, while he does surprisingly little for hers.

John Foster’s writing has rhythm and style, and a subtle humour that is never overdone. All credit to Director, Charmaine K Parkin, the cast, and the production team for bringing such a marvellous piece of theatre to life. The unexpected introduction by folk band Wikkaman was a nice touch, and one more reason to admire the diversity of live performance. For someone who usually prefers an armchair and box-set of The Sopranos, I’m fast becoming a convert!

The Weevil in the Biscuit by John Foster

doppelganger productions

Mark Freestone

Robert Louis Stevenson

Elaine Harry

Fanny Stevenson

Directed by Charmaine K Parkin

Produced by Nick Taylor

Performance Dates

The Allsebrook Theatre, Bournemouth University As Part Of The Festival Of Learning. Saturday 11 July 18:00 – 20:00. GET TICKETS HERE

Chaplin’s Cellar Bar, Boscombe. Sunday 19 July 14:00 – 16:00 And 20 – 22 July 19:00 – 21:00. GET TICKETS HERE

Scaplen’s Court, Poole As Part Of Lit Up Festival. 24 July 19:00 – 22:00. GET TICKETS HERE

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