Bell Book and Candle

(Centenary Theatre Group)


Amateur production

The story of Bell Book and Candle is a cute, bewitching, romantic comedy and should make for a rather fun night at the theatre. Main character is a, rather powerful yet youthful modern day witch, Gillian Holroyd, who sub-lets some apartments in New York City. In the world of this play, witches can’t feel in the same way that we do and although they can laugh, they don’t cry and they don’t love. In fact it is implied that if they do ever fall in love they will lose all their powers. This wouldn’t be such a big deal except that poor Gil (as everyone calls her) has a crush on her new tenant, Shepherd Henderson, and to make matters worse she has a long running feud with Shep’s fiancée. Partly out of revenge, and partly out of curiosity, she enchants poor Shep to love her instead. Oh, if only it were that simple!

As a result, Gillian now finds herself with the perfect guy. The only trouble is that trouble is a-brewing in the form of her brother Nicky Holroyd, who doesn’t like the idea of his sister marrying a normal. What will happen to our heroine when Shep (now fiancé) finds out that he has been tricked into loving her? What will happen when despite herself she finds herself falling in love with him? Will she lose her powers? Will she keep the man she loves? Does any of it matter?

Actually it does, for although this play was written in 1950 the theme of the relative difficulty and ease some people have falling in love is not only universal but just as vital today as it was when the play was written.

One of my biggest gripes with amateur theatre in Brisbane is with the unsuitable plays they choose, but thankfully not this time, for the Centenary Theatre Group have picked a really neat play to kick off their 2006 season. Unfortunately, though, they seem to have had a struggle to get it right. A lot of work has gone into the production, but it was misplaced, making what should have been a fun and breezy evening into a far too serious attempt at high drama. It was a shame more than anything for this seriousness invaded all aspects of the production making the play drag, particularly in the second act.

Even the attempts at comedy fell well short of the over-the-top playfulness inherent in the script. The good news for Centenary Theatre Group is that they have done all the hard work already, and to set the production in motion they just need to re-jig its direction. By quickening the pace, lifting the energy of the cast and really playing for and trusting the jokes in the script they could really make this show into something special by closing night.

Directed by Barbara Granato

Playing until 25th August 2006: Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 6pm

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including interval

— Glen J. Player
(Performance seen: Fri 3rd March 2006)