Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Men of the World

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


This is a sort of Bouncers on the buses from John Godber as he turns his attention to the wonderfully whacky world of coach trips seen through the eyes of three coach drivers, ex-sailor Frank, ex-SAS and avid Mario Lanza fan Larry and the jaundiced Stick.

The coach company is up t’north, although they have had the odd foreigner as a passenger in the past, Larry picking someone up from Leicester once!

We join them on a three coach convoy of mainly pensioners to Heidelberg and an amateur performance of The Student Prince in the town’s castle. Incidentally the musical was based on Old Heidelberg which was a German romantic play from 1901 by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster.  

Larry, played by Carl Paskin, has a gentle empathy with his charges, he actually likes them, gets to know them, gives them both dignity and nicknames from his world of musicals and Hollywood so we have Mack and Mabel, Arsenic and Old Lace, two sisters who see themselves above the lower orders on coach trips, there only because they are broke after their shop went bust. There are the Beverley Sisters who are three old biddies picked up from Beverley along with the Marx Brothers, a trio of ex-miners and champions of the downtrodden working classes.

Larry suffered deep vein thrombosis before it was fashionable, which kept him off work for a year and scuppered his chances of being head-hunted by coach trip superstars Wallace Arnold. Larry is looking to retire after this trip – the problem is he doesn’t have much else in his life.

Then there is Frank, played by Julia Blois, who played the role for STAC back in 2005. Frank is a woman, despite the name, and a woman who won’t go into how her moniker materialised. She is the down to earth one who keeps the peace in the trio. She did a stint in the Royal Navy, on training course after training course, leaving “qualified in nowt” hence her new career as coach driver. Apart from her driving she also gives us an unlikely episode of romance.

Then there is Stick, played, or rather sneered by Christopher Newbould. Stick hates pensioners, and it seems pretty well everyone and everything else. He also hates singing on his coach, is not to keen on motorway services and thinks people should be shot then they reach 72 or 73.


His envy and admiration of fellow driver Johnny Mac is palpable. Johnny takes teens looking for no string fun, cougars, divorcees and loose women on coach trips to Spain in a whirl of sun , sex and Sangria, oh and did we mention sex - or at least that’s how Stick sees it. He makes it fairly obvious that rather than having decrepit passengers “who smell when it gets hot” he would rather have a much more nubile coachload of totty who didn’t need shepherding so much as having a burning need for a testosterone fuelled coach driver.

Out trio’s Northern accents are passable and consistent and with no props apart from a pile of suitcases, a bench and a window the cast do well to jump between drivers and passengers in a flurry of flat caps and headscarves – along with an anorak for the weird mummy’s boy, or rather man, Martin, still at home and mothered in his 40s, a strange individual who, at best, is only on nodding terms with normality. Oh, and he has a penchant for bargains in the Brussels' red light district.

The production could do with a little more pace, some of the character changes were a little slow, and the characterisations could be more defined, but with first night out of the way, those are minor details that will sort themselves out naturally now the run is underway.

Godber takes the micky out of the elderly but it is gentle and almost affectionate, with all the seizing up or legs swelling if they sit too long, the talk of ailments and bodily functions, distrust of foreign food, but then there is also the devoted husband looking after his ailing wife with her heart problems, Jean, the Beverly sister, who dies on the overnight stop in Folkstone, and ex-miner and widower Wally, who wouldn’t have done it that way whatever it was, who will join his two friends on the next trip because when he goes through his front door he has nowt, he just sits and stares at the fire.

The collection of vignettes of the elderly are funny and at times sad, and if there is a fault, Godber doesn’t give them enough space to be much more than snapshots of old age, northern style.

There are moments of real drama though such as when Frank has to act as peacemaker between a warring Larry and Stick as frustrations and differences explode. 

Directed by Jason Moseley this is an entertaining piece of bare bones theatre, relying on a cast to create a coachload, or in this case, three coachloads of characters with minimal props, for a very human, very Northern trip to Germany and back. To 25-08-18

Roger Clarke


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