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

Boys shine bright over Highbury

Bringing sunshine: In rehearsal are (left to right) the patient (played by Malcolm Robertshaw), Al Lewis (Wylie Bowkett), Willie Clark (Rob Phillips), Ben Silverman (Dan Payne), Nurse MacKintosh (Becky Higgs) and Eddie (James Cutajar).

The Sunshine Boys

Highbury Theatre Centre


CASTING is the black art of professional theatre and film success. Getting the right combination of players can be a lengthy and frustrating process especially when an actor looks the part but doesn't play it.

Amateur theatre though does not have the luxury of a large production budget to play with. Often the casting can go through all sorts of social and company political twists, sometimes coming down to just who is available that week and free from the school run. 

So it's something of a rarity to see that with the Highbury Players latest venture, The Sunshine Boys, every member of the cast looks hand-picked, and perfectly chosen for their roles. It's either they fit the play or the play fits them, but whatever the case it all works beautifully.

Neil Simon's, play is yet another one of his Polaroid's of New York life.  A 40 year long partnership of a one-time highly successful comedy duo, has fallen out of public favour and they with each other for the past 11 years. One half of the duo, Willie Clark (Rob Phillips), barely exists in his crumbling small New York apartment. Al Lewis his estranged comedy side kick we are informed is out to pasture, with his own room and bathroom in his daughters house, out of town in the country. 

The catalyst is that a TV station is about to put on a review of the history of comedy and they want The ` good ol ‘Sunshine Boys to resurrect their act for the TV special.


Reluctantly and for the money, the boys agree and so there is an awkward reunion on the cards that provides us with a lot of laughs, bitter recollections and eventual poignant tragedy.

Rob Phillips slips into the role of the dishevelled Willie Clark as easy as his worn-out slippers, pacing his New York hovel, making wisecracks in the face of his crumbling life, career, apartment and demeanour.

He was matched by Dan Payne as Willie's nephew and agent,Ben, who again, with his clean American accent, kept just enough distance but awkward care from his uncle to be believable. The second half of the comedy, Al Lewis, is played by Wiley Bowkett. Wiley returns to the stage after a period of illness but looked strong and sharp here and fully equal to Willies biting sarcasm.

There was a very realistic scene between Registered Nurse (Alison Cahill) and bedridden Willie and for once it's worth mentioning the set which was not trying too hard.

The stage at the Highbury is something of a tunnel and so in other productions that use its full depth, players seem as far away from the front row as the back row is from the front of the stage if you follow. With The Sunshine Boys everything was nicely upfront and that included the glamorous nurse (Becky Higgs).Her entrance must have set a few pulses of the older guys in audience racing as she was practically bursting out of her mini skirted outfit.

As stated there are often concessions to be made with an amateur production but here I don't feel I need to make any. The players, performances, accents, and setting were as good as anything you will see in any professional production.

Jeff Grant 

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