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

islanders and phone box

St Peters' islanders answering what could be the last call. Pictures: Roy Palmer


Hall Green Little Theatre


SOMEWHERE off the tip of Cornwall, some 19 miles closer to America than Land’s End, and deep in the mind of writer Nick Wilkes, lies the island of St Peters.

It is an island a mere four miles across, a tiny place with a tiny population and, with a lot more jobs than people, everyone has to take on several roles to not only make ends meet but to keep the island ticking over - more jobs and services are needed than there are people to do them

And in the centre of island life is the phone box, bright red, imposing, the link with the outside world . . . with a side-line as a chicken coop and greenhouse.

Life drifts along gently on St Peters with the twice weekly off-season supply boat Martha, no interference from the mainland, and excitement coming in the form of island stopping events such as the vernal equinox fancy dress wheelbarrow race.

An idyllic place and pace . . . until the arrival of Mrs Norman. Except Mrs Norman is Mr Norman, Mr. S. Norman in fact, and Mr. S. Norman is a telecoms engineer sent from the mainland to disconnect the telephone box ready for it to be dismantled and removed because the line is no longer deemed viable.

Despite being the enemy Mrs Norman, as everyone knows him, finds himself being drawn into the quirky island life, starting with Joe, who runs B’s Offie and B&B where he is staying.

Joe, played by Roger Warren, has a hint of the Arthur Daley’s about him, particularly with ‘er indoors outdoors on the mainland visiting her sister in hospital where she is recovering from “woman trouble”.

She phones him almost hourly with her main concern not him, but her spider plants, and her unnatural obsession with producing their ‘babies’, with everyone on the island – except one - growing at least one of her offspring

Warren gives us a Joe light on his feet, tap dancing his way out of awkward situations, particularly when caught out by his niece Susannah, barmaid, trainee marine biologist and one-woman friend of the earth, played with litter picking efficiency by Marie Holden.

Then there is Jerry, played by hglt regular Tony O’Hagan. Jerry is community support officer, planning officer, haulier, vicar and pretty much everything else and was probably in charge of switching off the lights and locking the door at the end of the show.

Like Joe’s missus Jerry is obsessed by spider plants, except his obsession borders on paranoia, an irrational fear, the only known case of spiderplantaphobia and the one person on the island who has joe's offieavoided owning a plant. As a Jerry of all trades, O’Hagan, bumbles through life on the island while his wife, Marianne, played with a sort of quiet, hidden steel by Carol Ashby, runs the island cake shop at the top of the hill - with a lovely view of the sea . . . and the telephone box.

MrS Norman, (Richard Scott), faces up to Susannah (Marie Holden) and Marianne (Carol Ashby) while Joe (Roger Warren) minds the counter in his offie

Marianne has a side line in homemade paper bags with a hard-line no returns policy and serves calorie controlled cakes – you are only allowed to buy enough calories to cover the distance you walk to and from the shop.

And into this world of eccentric characters arrives Richard Scott as the nerdy MrS Norman, struggling to get a mobile signal, so relying on . . . you guessed it, the phone he is disconnecting.

The result is four days of gentle mayhem between supply boats as Norman discovers that Island life is life, but not as we know it, Jim.

Slowly Norman is drawn in; a nobody on the mainland, anonymous in Plymouth where he is based, here everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows him and not only who he is but what he is there for, and, he sort of likes it, rather like he likes the somewhat potent beer brewed on the island.

And despite the fact he is taking away the island’s only landmark, there is no animosity, he is welcomed like . . . well Mrs Norman . . . and even manages, unwittingly, to sign two petitions to save the phone box he is disconnecting.

He still faces problems mind, such as finding cooked breakfast, hot and today in the same sentence, or a daily newspaper, or a takeaway – the natural diet of techies -  and then there are the spider plant babies being propagated in the phone box.

It all comes to a head when Joe injures his wrist playing darts with Denise, the ladies’ darts team captain, spelling disaster for his participation in the looming wheelbarrow race – can he find a replacement for his team? Can the phone box be saved? Will Mr Patel ever stock The Guardian?

To find out, except about Mr Patel for any Guardian readers, head down to Hall Green Little Theatre.

Nick Wilkes, writer in residence at Malvern Theatres, supplied the splendid phone box for the set incidentally, in what is a gentle, quirky comedy, with some very funny lines. A few first night jitters and floundering for lines here and there tended to affect momentum a tad, slowing the pace and breaking the rhythm, but now that is out of the way, director Helen Dawson should have found hglt a clever comedy which should now settle down to find its own pleasing, St Peters' pace for an amusing and entertaining evening. To 11-06-16.

Roger Clarke


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