THE premiere of a new play by young local dramatist Helena Jane Kirby was performed by the Abbotts Ann Players in the outdoor amphitheatre of the village school on 11 and 12 July.

After attending school in Abbotts Ann and Test Valley, Helena studied drama at Royal Holloway College, University of London, where she gained a first class honours degree.

Now aged 22, she was last seen starring as Aladdin in the Abbotts Ann Players’ Christmas pantomime.

Besides writing the script for this production, she also acted in it and directed it.

The unusual play within a play is set backstage at a production of the Bishops Land Players.

The story unfolds as a venerable theatre critic, played with customary aplomb by Hazel Carter, is to judge a competition of local amateur dramatic society performances.

The Bishops Land director, played with impeccable comic timing by Valerie Hayter, is something of a harridan both to the players and to her husband, played by her real-life husband Andrew Hayter.

The cast are horrified when one of their members dies in a fight.

The director at front of stage thinks that it is merely good acting, but the back-stage cast find they have to deal with a corpse.

They dare not stop the performance as their director will be livid at losing her chance in the competition.

The comedy proceeds from their attempts to conceal the death from her.

The amphitheatre was a delightful venue for a summer play.

The audience enjoyed the humour and slapstick, despite the looming thunder and lightning overhead. Sheltering under umbrellas while consuming wine and picnics seemed only to enhance a peculiarly English sense of summer fun.

The play, most appropriately entitled The Show Must Go On!, provided an excellent evening’s entertainment.

It was a credit to the Abbotts Ann Players and its writer.

Rosemary Groves