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


Arsehammers and AC/DC


The Crescent Theatre


Psycho, loonie, nutter, barmcake, brain dead, crazy . . . plenty of words but not much sympathy or understanding when it comes to mental disorders.

We can cope with broken arms or legs, just not broken minds, yet that is where Claire Dowie’s monologues take us – monologues being a misnomer when it comes to Stage2 where Liz Light’s adaptations give us a cast of 16 and 21 respectively.

And not just that, as the audience enter, the entire cast are playing a game of giant, human, snakes and ladders, and playing very noisily – noisily as in could well be sponsored by Hedex.

Then the lights dim and we move from play to play. Reach a certain age and forget why you went upstairs, or have parents who forget the name of that star in that film, what was it called?, and the alarm bells ring – is this the start of . . . Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s, that terrible condition where memory slowly dies leaving the body behind, or, misheard and misunderstood in the mind of a child, protected by parents from the harsh realities of life . . . and death, it is a word misheard as arsehammers, a secret superpower, like x-ray vision, that has taken a lifetime to learn.

So, when gran dies and grandad moves in with daughter’s family, he becomes a super hero to his young grandchildren with his tales of derring do in the war and his boisterous games, but most of all because he has arsehammers. He just wiggles his bottom and then pops up in the strangest places.

In reality, it is a confused old man who has forgotten who he is, where he lives, where he is going and got lost, wandering into the most unlikely buildings and places.

To a small child this is teleporting “without the Starship Enterprise”; to his daughter and son in law, it is a slow, crumbling away of his mind. As an ensemble piece the small boy has many faces with regulars such as Amit Mevorach as both the boy and the dad and the diminutive Joel Fleming as the boy and the wandering grandad, and both show how well they are both developing as actors.

Eva Williams also impresses in her turn as the boy narrating while Ava Forrest shows real emotion as the boy’s younger sister Claudia as the characters change around the ensemble, almost as if mirroring the changing moods and days of granddad. 

sleeping boy

Joseph Hack-Myers sleeping on a bed of hands until he is awakened by Granddad's last Arsehammers!

When granddad goes into a home the illusion of superhero refuses to die but Joseph Hack-Myers as the small boy, who is never named, wakes to find grandad at the foot of his bed and with a cry of “Arsehammers!” he is gone. The superhero has used his super powers to rejoin gran. 

Music plays a part in the production, gleaned from grandad’s lost memories, with snatches of Benny Goodman and Glen Miller and a final, mournful We’ll Meet Again softly and movingly sung by Felix Lawrence-Pietroni. It is a poignnt ending to what was a well acted and, at times, funny piece, about an all too common situation.

Adult Child/Dead Child is a different kettle of fish; this takes us into the mind of . . . we never do find out who or even if they are a boy or girl, we just know that somehow their brain is wired differently.

Tom Forrest tells us of the cowboy and indian set he was bought as a young child where, playing with his dad, he was going to lose whether he played cowboy or indian – dad would make sure he was always the one who ended up dead. Daisy Wilkes and Amit Mevorach, again, tell us how our he . . . or she, was not abused as a child – despite being locked in a cupboard under the stairs for hours at a time.

There are moments of normality, when Georgia Nott as our Everyman is befriended by “her lady”, played with a smile by Jazz Davis, who lives down the street. When Everyman finds her lady is leaving she steals from her mother to buy her a present, but, now in the shape of Carmen Hutchins, when she takes the present round, the lady has gone.

Our Everyman has an imaginary friend, like him, or her, nameless until the encounter with our lady and she names her friend after the lady’s dog, Benji.

Benji is a trouble maker, at first a naughty influence, then more destructive, persuading Everyman to throw a brick through a neighbour’s window, a neighbour who had insulted our lady, but Benji is escalating into plain dangerous, realised when our growing child throws a hammer at Mr Kent the woodwork teacher who had criticised a toast rack the child was making.

Despite Gildie Mutta telling us: “I didn’t choose a hammer”, the child, now a teenager, attacks its father with a hammer, which, not surpisingly, sees the start of psychiatric treatment.

Roni Mevorach and Emily Cremins produce a dramatic all-night scene of fear and terror while Katelyn Stephenson gives us a moving, emotional speech as the child enters adulthood, still with Benji by her, or his, side.

Treatment and a hostel offer some respite and perhaps a family of sorts and affection the child never had with Toma Hofman essential as the understanding, listening hostel manager, Peter.

Psychiatric patients who feel better, though, have a habit of stopping medication believing they are cured, a decision which brings Benji back and a meltdown with Robert Fretwell now as the angry lead.

More treatment and finally a bedsit, which Benji tells Lzzy Jones-Rigby and Teigan Jones is just a bigger cupboard.

The solution, Maya Bennett, now as he or she, finds, as her long lost lady had found before, is a dog. A dog she, or he calls Lady, in memory of her, to live ever after, happiness being a relative term in a troubled mind.

Dowie has left the sex of the child indeterminate, the disorder undiagnosed or at least not revealed and we are left as observers, witnesses to a madness that, at times, flirts with normality, but with no pattern and no real end, one which leaves us uneasy. The end may be calm but is it really the end?

It is a much harder and more emotional piece than Arsehammers and the young cast do superbly well with a difficult subject.

It is an emotive piece with plenty of outbursts but director Liz Light keeps a tight rein on her young well drilled cast who manage to skirt around the edge of madness quite beautifully.

In both pieces we had the Stage2 hallmark that anyone on stage had to do something, had to act, even if just watching and perhaps not enough credit is given for working in a studio where the fourth wall has virtually gone. Being in the face of the audience – literally – is not easy, but they make it look that way, so much so it is the audience rather than the actors who look uneasy at being drawn into the drama.

Two interesting pieces, beautifully acted. It is hardly a fun evening, but it is an absorbing and rewarding one. To 13-01-18

Roger Clarke


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