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

sue in lentils

Sue Downing as the alcoholic vicar's wife in Bed among the lentils

Talking Heads

The Nonentities


Opening nights are always a tense affair. People are understandably a little nervous, they don’t know where to stand at times, the script is new and lines can be forgotten, the stage may have changed and so they forget directions or the props just don't want to work for them.

Then there's the audience, how are they going to react, will they be comfortable, understand the plot, follow all the cues?

But I digress, because none of this has anything to do with the play on the much-welcomed reopening night of The Rose theatre in Kidderminster.

So, before I deal with the performance on the stage, it’s five stars to the front of house staff and the management team of The Rosein becoming one of only a handful of theatres nationally, who have managed to navigate the Covid rule book and lead the way back to a sense of normality.

The pandemic has laid waste to the entire performing arts industry, and the rules have changed, so it was as much an opening night for them as the players and they did it remarkably well.

Covid has still left its restrictive mark on what can be achieved though on a stage and cleverly they have opted here, and over the coming months, for plays that need only one or two players to deliver the drama. This is further whittled down into two short plays on the night and the first was from the Talking Heads series by Alan Bennett.  Both solo performances feature two of the company’s finest performers, Sue Downing and Richard Taylor, providing them with the opportunity to showcase their considerable skill and experience in two very different monologue tales.

The first is Bed Among the Lentils directed by Pat Gale with Sue Downing in her own self-isolated tale of her life as Susan, a frustrated vicar's wife. She has become bored to alcoholism with her sterile and mundane life in the service to her husband and the church.

She loathes the parishioners who sycophantly dote on her `boyishly‘ good looking husband. Having maxed out her credit at the local off-licence, she drives further afield to find her favourite tipple and ends up at the grocery store of a handsome Asian man, Ramesh.

All of this is relayed to us from her own recollected personal experience and in a one-to-one conversation, typical of Bennett’s over the garden wall style. With a simple pared down set of a chair and hat stand and with a few clothes Sue Downing holds you captivated throughout.


Richard Taylor's Graham finds his life in turmoil when mother meets an old flame

The second play, A chip in the Sugar, is directed by Bob Graham and features the experience and lone talent of Richard Taylor. This seemingly comic monologue is packed with subtly and drama.

Graham is a middle-aged bachelor still living at home and dependent on his 72-year-old mother. One day when they are out walking, she meets an old flame who re-enters their lives with devastating effect on Graham's stability. 

But all is not what it seems and as we get to find out more about Graham's past, he is able to turn the tables on his mother's renewed romance and restore a sense of his own emotional security. Richard Taylor is a profoundly good storyteller and creates a vivid sense of desperation and fear bringing out the very best in Bennett’s deep analysis of the character.

On the night, these two short plays were witnessed by only 40 or so of us, but I genuinely urge anyone to go and reinstall your faith in visiting and supporting the theatre in this and their efforts, over the next few months to get back up and running.  You can rest assured the theatre has done its upmost to keep its audience safe and the only thing you will be infected with here is the great performances. To 26-06-21.

Jeff Grant


The Rose Theatre

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