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

Two superb sides of the story

Never seeing eye-to-eye. Vilma Watson and Stan Barten are a problem for each other in A Different Way Home.

A Different Way Home

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


JIMMIE CHINN has given us  a play that is in fact two monologues, by brother and sister Leslie and Maureen. In Pamela Meredith's studio production, the only time they appear together is for the curtain call. Not that there are any curtains: this is just another quirky factor in an absorbing evening of first-class theatre.

Leslie and Maureen are two very separate people, people who don't get on with each other, who don't talk to each other; who in this respect are, alas, like many people in the great big world outside.

We meet Leslie first. Stanley Barten, resonant of voice and amiable of manner, arrives with a bit of a shiver and pronounces that it's time to get the kettle on – in the adopted Lancashire tones that are always a good bet for making us realise what a friendly chap is talking to us.

He's a man of habit. Always does ribs and cabbage on a Monday. Always plans to do some decorating but never gets round to it. A likeable, human sort of citizen.

Or is he? After the interval, it's Vilma Watson's turn to put Maureen's point of view. Again, we meet a pretty ordinary person, but this time one who is dying for a cigarette, who lives for her knitting and despairs that nobody will wear a pullover these days; who explains that her Mum never trusted the Pope because he was a foreigner.


Moreover, we learn from her that brother Leslie won't go near a pizza because it's foreign. He doesn't like foreign things and he didn't go to her wedding because her husband was not British. She reckons that if  you call him small-minded you are just about summing him up. On the other hand, in unthinking mitigation, she does explain that they were brought up to be suspicious of everything.

Nevertheless, can the Leslie of whom she speaks so disparagingly be the Leslie who has had us eating out of his hand before the interval? The man who shed those very real tears in the moving moments when he was contemplating the death of his mother?  Are we to side with him or his sister – the sister who tells us, unprompted, that she doesn't get on with any of the neighbours? We think we may know why: she has a pretty sharp tongue, does our Maureen.

So it's pay-your-money-and-take-your-choice time, our dilemma proffered in two superb performances. He sits throughout in an ancient easy chair; she adds the flourish of mobility by bestriding the stage in a sort of gossip-a-go-go.

They both come believably to the task of taking us into their confidence, as if we are the only folk in the world to be privy to their views and their secrets. I am sure I was not alone in feeling privileged to have been allowed a brief insight – it is all over in less than an hour-and-a-half – into their lives.

This is a production that could grace the professional stage, no questions asked. To 22.1.11.

John Slim 

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