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


Elton John’s Glasses

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


In 1984 Watford reached their first ever FA Cup final in their 103-year existence. They lost 2-0 to Everton, something that changed Bill’s life forever, something he never got over, a defeat, he claims, caused by the sun reflecting off Elton John’s glasses into the eyes of keeper Steve Sherwood.

That in turn caused the now blinded Sherwood to drop a bread-and-butter cross allowing Everton’s Andy Gray to slot in the second and decisive goal.

It was an event which has left him traumatised in a sort of twilight world for the past 12 years.

Twelve years because here we are in 1996 and another crisis for The Hornets as they face Leicester at home in the last match of the season, needing to win to avoid relegation to Division Two. I won’t spoil it for footy fans by giving you the result, but let’s just say Watford had to find out where Walsall was for the following season.

Bill, who once attended every game at Vicarage Road just around the corner, now never ventures out of the house. He follows matches by the variations in the sound of the crowd through the window of his sparsely furnished flat, sparsely being a more than generous description here, and watches endless reruns of the goal that ended Watford’s FA Cup dream on an ancient video recorder that is losing the will to live.

And Dominic Holmes gives him just the right level of mental anguish as a depressed footy fan, even if he is just a throw-in or a free kick away from being a psychotic nutter.

dan sharper 

Brother Dan digging holes deeper with his version of events

Bill’s life is thrown into even more disarray when younger brother Dan arrives out of the blue after six years, along with half his band, the Goldilox – with an X! which seems to be important just in case they ever get famous and travel the world on flying pigs.

Carl Horton’s Dan is a bundle of nervous energy, too much at times, perhaps, who thinks quickly on his feet, and doing it pretty badly to be honest, with excuses and explanations that even a blind man could see through. Though, when you eventually know the truth, you can see why he is trying desperately to hide from it.

His band consists, or consisted of in the case of a lead singer who has left in furious mood after a debacle in Tranmere where their instruments have been seized over unpaid bills, along with a remaining pair of misfits who arrive with Dan to stay with his brother enroute to a gig in Bristol – which presumably will be a cappella unless new gear can be found.

There is Tim, the drummer, played  by Adam Wyke, who causes Bill a meltdown as he is wearing Elton John style glasses, so has to take them off. He is then so short sighted he cannot see the end of his nose let along anything in front of it which gives us a running joke of physical humour, and him a sore head as he blunders in and out, for the rest of the play.

Then we have bass player Shaun, played by Ray Lawrence, who looks and sounds like a reject from Slade – the Wolverhampton band, not the Porridge prison. He is as awkward as he possibly can be, argumentative, tactless and very funny, with some of the best lines. A favourite daft one being when he sat down in a huff declaring he was making a stand . . . I thought it was funny, but please yourself.

joanne as Julie 

Joanne  Bennett as Julie, Bill's season ticket to sex

Into this world of footy and rock enters Amy, or at least her ball enters first and she follows. Amy, played by Molly Jewitt, is a big Watford fan, wearing the shirt, wanting someone to have a kick about with her on what, we discover, is her 18th birthday.

She, like Bill, was at the 1984 final with her dad, who has since up stix (thought I would do it with an x as an act of solidarity) and walked out on her and her mum and now works on oil rigs out of Aberdeen.

And to add a touch of romance, once a week, we have Julie, all skin-tight trousers, red wine and fags, played by Joanne Bennett, who comes round to provide Bill’s more earthly needs on match days when hubby is at the game. Sort of sex in two halves, starting with a warm up and, presumably, with a quarter orange and a cup of Bovril at half time. Extra time might be needed of course if no one can find a winner.

At times it is very funny, with some lovely lines, and the cast carry it along with bags of enthusiasm and a smile, providing plenty of laughs: my problem is the script which doesn’t really give the actors any real meat to put on their character’s bones.

Playwright David Farr didn’t seem to know or decide what he was writing. Was it a farce, because the implausible plot, and use of hiding in the bathroom, might suggest that? Or was it intended to be a rough and ready romcom perhaps, or maybe a dark(ish) comedy or even a comedy drama of brotherly conflict? We do have a tension and a past between Bill and Dan after all. It gave us a lot of stools to fall between and never seemed to decide where it was finally going to sit.

The production, the first from the Grange Players for almost two years  is a welcome return to something at least within sight of normality and, with the first night in the bag, or onion bag in footy terms, the pace will pick up with the cast now having got back a bit of match fitness while director Chris Waters’ team talks seem to have paid off to create an amusing and entertaining evening. The final match will kick off on 27-11-21.

Roger Clarke


Grange Players

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