Review: Mixed Up!, Marde Hen

Wannabe playwrights are exceedingly lucky to have an enthusiastic amateur theatre group like Marde Hen Productions willing to stage their work.

Few other companies would be willing to invest time, effort and money into producing work which may or may not be a hit with the audience, so the writers would never have a chance to learn and improve their craft.

As one of the last events linked to this year’s marvellous Belper Arts Festival the drama group are this week performing Mixed Up! – a collection of short sketches by half a dozen writers.

Marde Hen put a call out for submissions of sketches, poems, monologues and the like last August and whittled down the 20 pieces received to eight, (one of which consisted of three parts) and added a finale ‘toast’ linking each of the ten minute plays.

The cast of eight are Mark Poole, Catherine Dolan, Gary Peake, Tracy Rollings, Jamie Brooks, Jeannie Jordan, Andrew Barlow and Jayne Brookes-Clayton, who is the stand-out performer of the night as the grieving widow in The Cafe, by Aaron James. 

The sketch, which sees her returning to the cafe she frequented with her late husband to reminisce and tell his spirit that she is at last moving on, was quite moving and the best of the pieces making up the show.

Jayne was also excellent as the relationship therapist in Pete and Anna by Stephen Lee Rees, although I couldn’t really get to grips with the script. (There is an joke there, which anyone else who has seen Mixed Up will understand but I am going to say no more).

Humour is always subjective, but I don’t think I was the only one in the small audience at The Strutts Centre who was wearing an embarrassed smile rather than roaring with laughter for some of the evening.

If I was going to give any advice to new writers it would be to make sure their work was thoroughly scrutinised by at least two people prepared to be brutally honest – and if in doubt leave it out.

The production team were Richard Platt director, sound, lighting and set design; Stephen Lee Rees stage manager, set designer, producer and programme designer; Jeannie Jordan assistant stage manager and director; Ann Taylor, Marie Stone, Yvonne Taylor and  Pauline Revil front of house; and music Mark Birch.

If you are interested in supporting new writers and the forward- thinking team from Marde Hen Productions you can get tickets for Mixed Up! at The Strutts Centre, Belper, until June 2, from