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

Exceedingly good, Mr Kipling

My Boy Jack

The Nonentities,

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


First let me say this is perhaps the best amateur production in terms of actor performance I have seen in a long time, unfortunately it was also the most frustrating.

So let's get the bad news out of the way with a request to any director and, if not for this particular production, then in the future for this company or any other that even though the script may call for it,  please consider carefully  the use of interfering sound effects and superfluous musical additions.

While they may be considered as adding to the atmosphere, often they only get in the way of a good actor.

This production suffered greatly for this reason either in excessive volume, low quality, or simply completely unnecessary. A 20 minute or so loop of poor quality canon fire audio that ran through an entire act and a critical part of the play, was distracting enough to have me wanting to get up and go and ask for it to be stopped.  

So the good news. The Nonentities production of My Boy Jack contains some of the best performances I have seen on any stage this year. The play centres on Rudyard Kipling's apparent struggle to balance his family needs against those of King and country and his want to have his only son serve dutifully in the First World War.


David Haig's play is a complex yet well written work that touches upon a range of issues that, even today, any family who has an offspring in the serving forces might have to face.

Tom Rees plays the part of Kipling and, to use a phrase common to an American friend of mine, he is `awesome'. He carries with him a genuine and touching paternal instinct for his son and daughter yet a real and convincing stoic attitude of a father and his place in the Victorian age.

He was equally matched by Vilma Watson as Carrie Kipling his American wife. Her performance grew in confidence as the play progressed. It culminated in a blistering and emotional confrontation with her husband when the fate of their son was finally revealed. Full marks to Rees and Watson who were not afraid to fully lose their composure in the final moments of the relationship breakdown. 

Another gripe I had was the long interludes between scenes changes some lasting five or so minutes.  With such a long time to wait not only did the good acting work disappear into the interlude but it gave rise to random audience conversation - and I sincerely hope the job interview of the daughter of the woman behind me goes well next week.

This was my first visit to The Rose and very impressed I was too. There seems to be a focus on quite ambitious and elaborate set building and My boy Jack was no exception which accounted for some of the long scenery changes. However if the strength of the actors here in this production is representative of the overall standard, I would encourage directors to be more minimal in their approach thereby possibly reducing wait times. Two choruses of us all singing Pack up Your Troubles were about as much as I could take.

I would rate this production very highly if it were not for the audio intrusions and in truth these were only an issue as they interfered with the actors who were first class.  It's a real case for less is more and hopefully in the future I will get to see this very strong company in a less frustrating setting. To 19-05-12

Jeff Grant

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