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

This is a plan that works a treat

Game Plan

Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


AN INSPIRED company ensures that the night goes by on wings - although on the first night the final curtain came a little later than had been expected.

There were, indeed, some protracted unscheduled longueurs, presumably because of costume changes - but who cared? Tomos Frater has given us a production that lifts the heart.

Alan Ayckbourn has presented us with an apartment alongside the Thames, occupied by a mother struggling to afford her surroundings now that her husband has abandoned her, and a daughter who comes to her assistance in a practical but totally unexpected way - aided and abetted by her school friend, for whom life suddenly becomes a no-holds-barred nightmare.

And it's a delight. Martin Groves has designed an inspirational set, with huge glass doors opening on to the balcony that overlooks the river, beyond which is a skyline that embraces St Paul's and The Gherkin. One of those sets, in fact, that makes me regret that it is rare these days to walk into an auditorium and see closed curtains - because having the scene laid out before us as we enter in penny numbers means that the designer is deprived of the spontaneous applause that would otherwise have responded to the eventual revelation.


As is so often the case, however, the company has been given the set it deserves. Christina Peak excels as the hard-pressed mother to whom the eventual arrival of the police comes as a bewildering shock - she having no idea of just how enterprising her daughter has been.

Josephine Rattigan is daughter Sorrel - loving if a mite tempestuous; strong, decisive - and supported to the hilt by her friend Kelly (Aimee Hall).

Kelly is the initially reluctant ally in Sorrel's startling scheme - and she is splendid. She is wonderfully awkward when her new role demands that she attires herself as a French maid in a rebellious ra-ra skirt and totters haplessly on heels that give no quarter, and she puts on a fine panic when Sorrel's first customer arrives.

The client is Robert Onions, who has the almost immediate responsibility of launching into a mammoth monologue about his problems on his arrival, and who does so with aplomb.

Adam Worton is the policeman who misdirects a fine turn of rage at Sorrel's hapless mother, Abigail Quiney is a joy as the policewoman who can't stop quoting the Bible, and Richard Aucott brings further problems as an unexpected visitor.

It's another winner for the Players. To 18.10.

John Slim 


Plan B . . .


IT'S been a long time since so much instinctive laughter and regular bursts of applause echoed round the Grange, but the cast in this very funny Alan Ayckbourn play deserve the acknowledgement.

They are quite superb in the story of how 16-year-old schoolgirl, Sorrel Saxon, draws up a desperate plan in an effort to prevent her deserted mother having to leave their comfortable London Docklands apartment and move out of the capital.

Sounds heart-breaking, but there is so much humour in the play as Sorrel, brilliantly played by Josephine Rattigan, persuades her school pal, Kelly Butcher, to help her become an online prostitute to pull in some cash after discovering how successful an expelled pupil has already been on the game.

Aimee Hall is a hoot as Kelly who, when asked to purchase condoms, arrives with a bumper box of 200, then dresses as a French maid to welcome any clients while Mrs Lynette Saxon (Christina Peak) is out at work.

The situation becomes hilarious when the rather timid first customer, Leo Tyler (Robert Onions), is more interested in talking about his late wife than getting down to business, and then suffers a heart attack.

Lovely contributions, too, from Adam Worton as the bossy Scottish detective Dan Endicott, and Abigail Quiney, the Bible-quoting policewoman, Grace Page, who are convinced the mother is the hooker.

Directed by Tomas Frater, Game Plan runs to Saturday September 18.

The stunning set, designed by Martin Groves, includes full length sliding doors giving a view over the Thames to the dramatic skyline, including the Gherkin building, the roof of St Paul's and a train gliding by.

Paul Marston Box office: Through website or 01922 649168      

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