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

While We’re Here

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

The Swan Theatre, Worcester


Carol and Eddie, two of life’s also rans, drift though a bittersweet comedy of empty lives, stifled emotions and above all, loneliness, all wrapped up in a love story or at least a story of lost loves.

Eddie has mental problems and was living in a tent near his old haunts in Havant when Carol found him on a park bench, his life packed in four carrier bags of unreadable letters and old bank statements and a rucksack of well worn clothes.

She lets him stay in her daughter’s room – after all her daughter rarely visits and hardly ever contacts her – although she didn’t use her daughter’s sheets, no, she used the spare set, in case her daughter was wondering.

Carol is a team leader of three, including one part-timer, in voter registrations, a hardly key council department. She owns her own house – which belonged to her parents – but it is almost a prison. She doesn’t redecorate or change anything, she just keeps it “spruce”. When she is not working she is in the house. House, work, house.

She was once married and when that broke up, some 20 years or so ago, she had an affair with Eddie, which it seems, means more to them now than it did then. Eddie had vanished without explanation. One day there, next day gone, reappearing two decades later, homeless, jobless apart from cash in hand occasionally with a scrap man, and with not even enough luck to be down on.

eddie and carol

Keith Thompson as Eddie and Helen Broadfield as Carol

So, starts five scenes of memories, of hopes, of plans and of fears in Barney Norris’s two hander. Eddie is afraid he will die as if he never existed. “I’ve been alive for so long and I haven’t got anything to show for it,” he cries.

Eddie has lived and worked in Spain, wants to head off to Scotland, always on the move while Carol has never left Havant, apart from a year in Emsworth a couple of miles away . . . which wasn’t a success.

While he is big ideas, dreams out of reach and fear of a life that achieves nothing, Carol is all smiles, make the best of it, and if all else fails, there is always a cup of tea.

From introducing wolves to Scotland to Austrian kidnapper Josef Fritzl, the pair meander their thoughts through life in a world outside their own. Carol observes that unlike Fritzl, most men would not want to keep a woman in their basement because “you could never have anyone round”. A practicality, you suspect, from a woman who has had no one round since Eddie vanished 20 years ago, and perhaps not even then.

From our first meeting with the pair you can see the embers of that love affair of 20 years ago might just about be still glowing, perhaps more so on the part of Eddie but, cleverly, Norris makes sure we can’t take Eddie at face value. Odd words here and here, things he does when Carol is out of the room or at work might not be enough to condemn him outright, but they are enough to make us uneasy, even suspicious - after all, he is homeless and lonely and she has her own house, hot meals and a warm bed.

Questions mount, such as who was the woman he had round while Carol was at work, first denying it, then claiming it was his ex when proof came to light

Eddie is more eager to rekindle the affair, but by now we are wary – and so is Carol. She has built walls around her to keep out hurt, the pain of broken hearts, broken dreams, to keep emotions locked in, keep her routine safe, with its little highlights, such as Saturday Kitchen and the omelette challenge.

While Eddie is searching for . . . something, Carol has become a simple woman – perhaps she always was - with simple needs, simple dreams and a simple sadness in her final monologue.

Helen Broadfield is superb as Carol, a woman who is not too bright but always smiling, looking on the bright side even when optimism is nowhere to be found - and always ready with a cup of tea. Yet she is a woman who is desperately lonely and vulnerable. Eddie brings a hint of a sparkle back to her life but is that sparkle merely fool’s gold?

She is matched by Keith Thompson as Eddie, a man who swings between pie in sky optimism and gloomy depression. Thompson gives us an Eddie who we can sympathise with, but he keeps him just far enough at arm’s length so that we can never quite like or trust him.

The pair are flawless, fleshing out their characters into real people with their real, if empty, lives. It sounds gloomy, but at heart it is a gentle comedy, very funny at times, about ordinary people, a lonely pair living unheralded lives who, as they fear, will probably leave this earth leaving no trace behind. A lovely piece of theatre directed by John Lines. To 15-06-19.

Roger Clarke


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