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

herd family

Katy Ball as Carol, Joan Wakeman as grandma, Patricia, and Hannah Tolley as Claire with Bob Graham as granddad, Brian. Pictures: Colin Hill

The Herd

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


As Christmas seems to come earlier every year, especially in the retailer’s calendars, what better way to open up the autumn season than with a play about a supposedly joyous family occasion, crumbling into personal chaos, anger and bitter resentment. So pull up a chair and join in the living room fun with The Herd.

This is actor Rory Kinnear’s first play and although the format lacks originality, it’s a bold attempt to analyse and depict the severe tensions of a family worn down by a lifetime of duty, in caring for a severely disabled family member.

At time Kinnear’s hand is way too heavy and actorly imbuing several of his characters with a scholarly wit and language that seems unnatural in contrast to their respective personalities and the trials they have faced.

Set against that there is a level of profanity that often seems entirely out of place and gratuitous. All of these issues though are the play and not The Nonentities who once again have taken a complex and often difficult story to witness and made it their own.

Carol is the Mother of Andy, whom we never get to meet, a young man with a life threatening disability. A lifetime of servitude to him has ostracised Carol from her family and now, as she prepares for a homecoming and his 21st birthday party, her bitterness and poor mental health is clearly evident. She has marginalised her daughter Claire, who herself has been robbed of her young adult years in co-caring for her sick brother.

The father Ian has been driven away with Carol’s failure to let him care for his son, unfairly belittling him at every opportunity and failing to recognise his own love and care. The parental split has in turn affected Claire who now lacks any understanding of the past and so has nothing but hatred for him, childishly rejecting his attempts to make peace and repair the old wounds. Other guests are the grandparents, either interfering with their opinions whilst they quote from the classics, and Mark, the boyfriend of Claire, meeting the family here for the first time.

herd couple

Carol with absent father and husband Ian played by Martin Salter

Carol is played by Katy Ball and she did a fine job at delivering the constantly irritated and over concerned nature of her character. The role calls for a litany of bad language from her and she didn’t seem too comfortable when called upon to do so. There were plenty of opportunities to raise the anger level and her exchanges with her daughter and ex-husband were both powerful and heartfelt. Claire was played by Hannah Tolley.

Miss Tolley has often been a good supporting actor in many of The Nonentities productions, so it was great to see her get a role in which she was able to show what she is capable of. At one point her bitter exchange with her mother had a true sense of reality and her pain showed through in a way that stunned the audience into further silence.

The absent father Ian, played nicely by Martin Salter, arrives unannounced with a birthday present and his actions unleash the anger of the woman folk. This is where Kinnear’s writing falls down as we never fully get to find out why he left and his presence merely makes him the target for everyone’s abuse as his reasoning is overlooked.

Grandma Patricia is played by Joan Wakeman and revels in the role as the mischievous matriarch of the family, ready to deliver her opinion to anyone who is in ear shot. Granddad Brian, played by Bob Graham, is always ready to add a sprinkling of warm comedy to the mounting tension whilst also dispensing his Shakespearian wisdom from an armchair that he often needs help to get out of.

Finally there’s the boyfriend of Clair, Mark played by Joe harper. Mark is a northern poet and an unlikely addition to the household. Eager to please, he and Claire have news that tightens the family ties to breaking point.

The Herd certainly lacks the writing craft of other similar plays but when it’s allowed to break free from the academic overtones it flies with ferocity. The was a prop clock that seemed to keep sticking or stopping throughout the performance and that reflected the flow of this production at times but at no time does your interest flag or concern for these characters wander and once again the Nonentities deliver a powerful and thoughtful production. To 09-11-19.

Jeff Grant


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