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

Skeletons in celestial closet

Entertaining Angels

Highbury Theatre Centre


THERE are times when I sit in a theatre watching a play, whilst comparing it to the recalled facts of my prior research about its history, and wonder if I have either arrived at the wrong location or Googled the wrong play.

 If the past reviews are to go be believed this is a humorous cutting edge tale of typical English life. However I left with the distinct feeling that in fact Richard Everett when writing Entertaining Angels, could not make his mind up about what kind of play to write at all.

 Instead of allowing it to be the ` Carry On' it begins with, it somehow gets distracted with all the `To the Manor Born‘ punctuation, whilst then making an effort to debate the details of religion and the sexual deviations of a group of middle class women . 

If this is a `very English Comedy ‘as it is said to be, then it's not an England that has been in existence since the 1930s and then perhaps only one that exists in our imagination. That's something of an irony as it was written in 2009.

The play, set in the grounds of a vicarage, centres on Grace (Denise Phillips) who is struggling to adapt to life after the death of her Reverend husband Bardolph (Nicholas Whitehouse). Bardolph, even though now having passed onto heavenly pastures new, insists on hanging around the potting shed in his ghostly form, dispensing advice from beyond the grave.


This ghostly presence is a theatrical device that seems to be becoming as common as the `it was all dream‘ scenario having seen it used in a handful of plays recently. Widowed Grace has an older sister Ruth (Val Goode) who has returned after 30 years of Missionary work in Africa. Then there is daughter Jo, a divorced Psychotherapist (Pip Zvinis) and finally they are joined by new Vicar Sarah (Alison Cahill) who is all set to take over the parish.

Everyone it seems has a skeleton in the closet and Everett has all of his women portrayed as either sex starved or wantonly promiscuous, carrying the burden of their regrets in secret having all failed in their respective relationships in some way.

Even the spirit of poor old Bardolph is not safe, as the once pillar of Village decency is brought to task about his wayward and deceitful past although he's long gone and passed on to the other side. Derek Acorah would be proud.

Throughout though, thankfully, Entertaining Angels is not without its laughs and the cast manage to time those gags to perfection. It is indeed the weight of the sarcastic humour that contrasts to the continual deep introspection about life, that occasionally wrong foots the audience into misplacing the odd laugh where it shouldn't be and vice versa.

What was nice to see was the production team exploring the staging process with a clever set and some subtle lighting changes, signifying the change of Graces memory to the present day.

Nothing can be taken away from the cast who each delivered some great work even though on occasion the velocity of Denise Philips delivery stunned her opposite into near silence, but having said that you never struggled to hear a word from anyone.

On the night The Highbury theatre was packed to the brim with and when the laughs came they were loud and huge. So it seems in the end the local Angels were indeed well entertained. To 27-04-13.

Jeff Grant 

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