Past, present and future tense

Almost Human & Precious Jewel

Lichfield Garrick Studio


THE latest offerings from the pen of Lichfield writer Phil Preece are a sort of back to the future affair starting very much in a time to come in a galaxy not that very far away - in fact somewhere in the Black Country.

Rob, played by Jim Kelly, is a fully paid up computer nerd living more on screen than off after a skateboard accident left him in a wheelchair. What happens though in a world created through a keyboard if you actually create a real person - a superperson but a person nevertheless, someone Almost Human. 

Enter Ariel, played by Sutton Coldfield actor Natasha James who kept up a stream of high speed, machine-gun dialogue from entrance to exit - a memory feat worth a bow on its own.

The dialogue is snappy, littered with technospeak and nerdese and delivered in a slightly superior, view down the nose way by Miss James as she deals with clearly inferior life forms while Jim Kelly's Rob panics nicely as he finds control-alt-delete doesn't actually work in real life no matter how hard you press them.

Ariel has destroyed her own computer world and now wants to destroy Earth, as you do when you are the child of a computer game where creating and wiping out galaxies at the press of a mouse is about as commonplace as it gets out there among the gigabytes.

Matthew Huntback as Tyrell (back left) and Jim Kelly as Jacobus Fiennes flank Della Allen as Queen Elizabeth I with Ann, Natasha Jame and Fr Gerard Mark Blake in front in Precious Jewel

So it is up to Rob to save us with a heady mix of Imax, dodgems, funfairs, pubs, Christmas parties and fish and chips. Just keep on hoping he manages to keep Ariel interested or the whole world faces that Microsoft blue screen of death.

Precious Jewel in this double Premiere is not quite so successful. It opens and closes with a present day tour round a country house which comes alive with the tale of an unplanned visit in 1585 by good Queen Bess who turns up on the doorstep to take shelter from a real Hammer Horror job of a storm. 

The tale involves Ann, a defiant daughter, Natasha James again, a dangerous catholic priest Fr Gerard, Mark Blake, the householder Jacobus Fiennes, Kelly, again, the Queen's rather nasty bodyguard Tyrell, Matthew Huntbach as well as Elizabeth herself, Della Allen. 

The Virgin Queen soon takes control, freeing the priest to avoid creating another martyr and equally freeing the daughter who had been refusing to accept an arranged marriage - and all before breakfast.

The story is easy to follow, the Elizabethan dialogue a little less so and although the hall is supposedly lit by a solitary candle a brighter candle, or a couple more wicks, to up the light levels might help lift the gloom the dim lighting creates. 

Directed by Paulo Allem, Della's brother incidentally, The double bill is now off on tour around the Midlands before ending in the Jermyn Street Theatre in London in December. To 09-10-10.

Roger Clarke 


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