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

Family kick up a storm of a show

Family fortunes: Tony O'Hagan (left), Christine Bland and Kevin Lowry in Roger Warren's production of Straight and Narrow

Straight and Narrow

Hall Green Little Theatre


THE most memorable moments of Roger Warren's busy production come at the end of the first act. This is when the studio theatre is filled with the biggest racket I have heard – apart from a 60-strong youth group company – made by voices unaided by musical instruments or explosions in more than 40 years of pretty assiduous theatregoing. 

It's the family having its say. All at once, in strident Northern tones. Pretty impressive. 

Interestingly, Roger Warren himself has appeared for the first time shortly before the eruption. He turns up as Arthur – quiet, unassuming Arthur, who certainly would not have dreamed of organising noise on such an impressively alarming scale and who finds himself drawn into a full-scale family row, no holds barred, almost straight away. 

Vera (Christine Bland) is the family matriarch, the mother who is quick to take offence and just as quick to realise when she has gone too far; the woman who is full of high hopes that turn to disappointment; who fails to realise what's going on between her son Bob the carpenter (Anthony O'Hagan) and his workmate Jeff the plumber (Kevin Lowry). 


It is to her that some of writer Jimmie Chinn's most amusing lines fall. “I've seen more attractive lumps in gravy.” “If your father were alive, he'd turn over in his grave.” They are not of themselves rib-ticklers, but this is a Bland who is most appropriately po-faced and who somehow improves them in the telling. 

Bob – he is the one who cooks and cleans and Jeff is the one who goes jogging – keeps stepping out of the action to address the audience, which implies that there's more to be said than can be easily fitted into conversational dialogue, though he finds time for mock-disappointment with the patrons: “You're supposed to be on my side – remember?”  

The increasingly irritable Jeff has been distracted by a woman whom he and Bob met on holiday.  The gales of laughter disappear when he opens his soul after the interval to soliloquise about feeling alone and about his hitherto unsuspected paternal longings. These are a heartwarming few minutes and he handles them beautifully. 

But then, this is a production in which, apart from a couple of memory lapses on opening night, everyone has risen to the occasion. Amanda Grant (Nona) and Diane Lowry (Lois) are in fine form in a crisis as they see the uncomprehending Vera making more waves than Bob and Jeff can easily cope with, and Philip Astle is a reliable Bill, less in the eye of the storm than the other two men and understandably apt to try to keep his head down, with varying degrees of success. To 12-03-11. 

John Slim 

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate