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

Leather, willow and very English laughs

Outside Edge

Hall Green Little Theatre


LET'S face it, we don't give a toss, even a full one, about the scores in the cricket match with British Rail Maintenance Department (Reading East). We don't even know the name of the team whose players we are watching – and it doesn't matter.

The Richard Harris comedy is about people, not about scoring runs and getting the other side out. It concerns the attitudes and relationships in the pavilion, which has been splendidly conceived by Edward James Stokes, rather than how many wickets are tumbling and who's scoring how many runs – though as it happens, the Saturday-night scoreboard seemed to bear little relation to what we were told was happening on the field.

It was a nice touch to have the outfield cluttered with very British litter. There could be little doubt that this was happening in England's green and pleasant land.

Such matters, however, are but the trappings, the adornments of a story of love, lust, deceit and ever-undimmed optimism. Oh, and tunnel-visioned selfish arrogance, too. Team captain Roger (Kevin Lowry) wears it like a bespoke overcoat while he gets his patient wife running in all directions without once spurring her on with a please. At one point, he tells her to shut up, three times in rapid succession, and immediately believes he has covered his tracks by adding, “Love you.”

Maggie (Ros Davies) and Dennis (Ara Sotoudeh) wait at the pavilion

His wife, the long-suffering Miriam (Diane Lowry), is a joy of efficiency and mistress of the spick and span. Discard litter in her presence, and you rapidly find yourself persuaded to pick it up again. These are two nicely-honed performances, splendidly shaped for maximum effect.

There is a similarly pleasing pairing in Kevin (Steve Parsons), who has hurt his spinning finger but is good at making quiches, and big Maggie (Ros Davies), who mixes concrete and digs up trees and whom he calls a dozy great cow. And we have a happy cross-legged cameo from Samantha Holden, as Sharon, the daffy bimbo who talks at an excellently-controlled rate of knots and can't get into the loo.

Linda Neale is Ginnie, disporting herself in a sun lounger in the cause of some domestic detective work. I was glad that she did not keep moving her lounger to follow the sun, as happened in a production I saw many years ago, when the Ginnie of the moment unfortunately made it clear that the sun was for some reason going anti-clockwise.

Phil Astle (Bob), James Marlow-Smith (Alex) and Ara Sotoudeh (Dennis) also pitch in purposefully before the script insists on its pre-ordained rain. As I have already said, this is England. To 16-07-11.

John Slim 

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