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

A night of sublime madness

A Handful of Laughs

Moorpool Players

Moorpool Hall, Harborne


AN evening of sublime inanity, its brightness dimmed only by the substantial gaps that are part of this bill of five plays by Michael Green, finds 15 players presenting 35 roles and doing so quite splendidly. Did coarse acting ever have it so good?

At various times, we have the table that loses its legs, the actor who is blatantly reading his lines not very well, the voice that stands in for a failed doorbell, and the Noel Coward character who loses several armfuls of blood but tries to carry on declaiming.

This is the sanguinary centrepiece of Present Slaughter, with Mark Earey bleeding bravely while Laura King (Lavinia) does a very amusing solo tango. It is the last offering on the bill, the culmination of an evening of determined daftness that is deftly directed by John Healey. Was it he, I wonder, who decreed that one of the evening's characters should pronounce every S as sssh, on the grounds that she is eventually required to say, “I hate the sight of him.”

John warns in his notes that Last Call for Breakfast is the Players' first venture into the theatre of the avant-garde and that audiences have a habit of failing to understand it. It is time to report that I have just joined the club.


The characters are He, She and Sugar Cube – with She played by Claire Osborne, who offers some reasonably bad ballet with He (Richard Quarmby) before she begins popping up out of an outsize salt pot to reveal the best voice of the night – effortlessly loud, perfectly clear, a pleasure to hear. She ensured that I didn't care that I didn't understand.

Elsewhere, we have had earlier sightings of Mark Earey as the police inspector in Streuth – in which Linda Robinson (Janet) scores full marks for knowing that there are only two Rs in drawing room – and as Vladimir Pederastovitch, otherwise known as Captain Sodov, in The Cherry Sisters, which is as near as we are going to get to Chekhov on this unpredictable evening of broad-brush comedy.

A Collier's Tuesday Tea brims bravely with adopted Yorkshire accents and a rampantly unzipped pair of trousers, with Dad – the miner – despairing at discovering that his son wants to be an archaeologist, “digging in the ground for bits of bloody teapot.” And I could not help wondering how often Debbie Scattergood has found her 11-letter surname sharing a line in a programme with a character with a longer name than her own – in this case, Victoria Hepplethwaite.

This is grassroots theatre to be treasured. A joy. To 15.5.10.

John Slim 

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