Perry Pontac is an American living in London, whose voice was heard in a recent programme about THE WIZARD OF OZ (as the nephew of one of the writers of the film version). He is a remarkably consistent and successful comic writer, with a manner all his own. All of the thirteen plays he has so far written for radio exploit extreme situations and ornate language for comic purposes.
His first play, THE EVENT OF THE SEASON, was broadcast in 1987 and it established in abundance the mode to which his admirers have since become accustomed. It is his only full-length play, a tour-de-force of elegant, exaggerated language and outrageous comic invention, fizzing with wit and grotesque fancy. The dialogue is very carefully wrought, evoking comparisons with Wilde, Ronald Firbank and Joe Orton. It has some of Orton's flippant brutality and continually confuses the trivial and the profound, like Wilde at his best. The event of the title is Lady Wulfruna's house party, which has to be shelved when nuclear war breaks out. The household retreats to an underground shelter, where life goes on, with the butler in attendance. Geraldine McEwan played Lady Wulfruna with marvellous disdain for the lower orders of creation, and Maureen Lipman and George Baker also handled the dialogue with great aplomb.
ODD MOMENTS followed in 1988, the first of a sequence of shorter plays. Again there is a haughty, self-regarding woman, despising lower mortals (and played by Judy Parfitt to the manner born). Brenda Blethyn was the infinitely obliging servanr who eventually turns the tables. Yet another snotty lady dominates STRANGE DELIGHTS (Sian Phillips this time); but she fails to achieve her repressive ends and unorthodoxy triumphs.
Pontac attracts first-rate performers and certain actors feature repeatedly in his plays. John Moffat made his Pontac debut in SECRETS OF THE PRISON HOUSE, as a hapless lawyer summoned to act for a deranged murderess (played with relish by Miriam Margolyes); and he recurred in THE POINT OF THE STORY, a small masterpiece, which unfolds itself through a series of brief encounters, each leading logically to the next, and then returns to the source by way of the same chain in reverse; and in two mocking sequels in verse to Shakespeare, HAMLET, PART II and FATAL LOINS. The latter is Pontac's latest play, a masterpiece of sustained absurdity, sending up ROMEO & JULIET in bravura style (and finding for Romeo a replacement lover equivalent to the least likely person in a detective story). Peter Jeffrey was also in HAMLET, PART II and he recurred inn three later plays: in A DIFFERENT WOMAN, as a self-regarding plastic surgeon; in AFTER ALBERT, as a Disraeli in retreat from the widowed Queen Victoria, who has given him the come-hither; and as the self-important buffoon of a detective in CASUAL SLAUGHTERS, a send-up of the classical whodunit.
All Perry Pontac's plays are fun. He dispels gloom and invites listeners to relish absurdity and delight in his wit. He disappeared from the schedules for some years after CASUAL SLAUGHTERS, so that FATAL LOINS was all the more welcome when it appeared. Let us hope he does not vanish again.
Barry Pike / 2002
The event of the Season 16 Feb 87
All of these broadcast on BBC radio 4
A DIFFERENT WOMAN
Credits: Melda Dinnage Alison Steadman
THE BARDS OF BROMLEY....2004
The play was very well-received, judging by the comments on the BBC drama messageboard. "..... ....a beautiful pun on writing groups and the way they demolish everyone's writing...it must have been so much fun, not only to write, but to act in and direct" ........and "..just finished laughing uncontrollably at this play......makes me regret I didn't pay more attention in English "O"-level literature - lots of the jokes must have passed me by. I now have a completely revised impression of Wordsworth..."
.............I found this on the RADIO NEW ZEALAND website.....readers may recognise part of it as coming from Barry Pike's review....
This afternoon’s play (Sun 7 Nov 04, Radio NZ) THE BARDS OF BROMLEY is written by American playwright, Perry Pontac, a remarkably consistent and successful comic writer, with a manner all his own.
All of the 13 plays he has written for radio so far exploit extreme situations and ornate language for comic purposes. The Bards of Bromley asks what would happen if the greats of European literature all turned up to the same creative writing workshop? Writers like Goethe, Wordsworth, George Eliot, Strindberg and AA Milne?
The quintet pitch up in the South London classroom of Jacqueline Swerdlow, "a woman who wouldn’t know an original talent if she saw one." Wordsworth’s poem The Daffodils, she declares is "jingly" and "singy-songy" and Strindberg’s play The Dance of Death is "not likely to attract the passing trade on Shaftesbury Avenue". Soon the assembled geniuses begin to tear each other apart. Strindberg informs Wordsworth that "daffodils are nourished by rotting corpses and the worms that feed on them". His victim meanwhile confides that he "cannot abide Swedes. I speak of course of the people, not the root vegetable." It’s all great fun!
Nigel Deacon / Barry Pike
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