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

Glorious net that catches every laugh

Net closing in: Barbara (Carolyn Barnicoat) and the towel-draped Stan (Jason Moseley) watch with some concern as taxi driver John (Ian Mason) kicks away the walking stick of Dad (Jim Austin)

Caught in the Net

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


RAY COONEY has penned a farce that is at times riotous – and Andrew Dunkley's production ensures that every last possibility is explored.

The doors open on cue, the telephones ring precisely when required – which is very often and generally at the most inconvenient moment for John Smith, the taxi driver who for the last 18 years has had a wife and family in Streatham and another wife and family in Wimbledon. This is the sequel, written in 2001, to Run for Your Wife (1983), and it is receiving a joyous reincarnation.

The multi-door set is shared between the two houses and I would cavil only at the decision to allow most of the doors to be pressed into use in both of them, and similarly not to permit the two distinctive colourings of the walls in which they are placed to give any sort of indication of when the action is in Wimbledon and when it is in Streatham.


Thus are a few more confusions heaped onto the glorious lunacies that are so plentifully built into the plot. The saving grace is that the urgency of the action ensures that it is not long before we don't really care where it is happening: what matters is that John Smith's domestic secret is clearly catching up with him and the wiles and stratagems he employs to keep it safe grow ever more desperate and more amusing every few minutes.

It is he, in fact, who is caught in the net – Cooney having clearly based his title on the fact that John Smith's son Gavin, in Streatham, has found John Smith's daughter Vicki, in Wimbledon, entirely by chance on the Internet. And fortunately for all those ribs waiting to be tickled, they have arranged for Gavin to go to Wimbledon to introduce himself.

Ian Mason is the enterprising taxi driver, increasingly desperate as he sees the implacable approach of Armageddon – and physically busy, too, dashing about the set in a simulated state of collapse and apt to kneel on the furniture and seek to hide by draping himself over the back when he realises that the wrong wife is suddenly in the same room.

This is a delightfully forceful performance – and it runs in tandem with that of Jason Moseley, as Stanley the lodger, who is drawn with awesome inevitability into unwanted and undeserved duties as first lieutenant and liar-in-chief on behalf of his likeable but feckless friend.  

And they lived happily ever after. John, survivor of many crises, with wives Mary (Helen Lammas, right) and Barbara

This in fact, is possibly the bigger of the two roles, with Stanley often left onstage to invent yet another way out for the taxi man while his panicking pal is on his latest urgent pilgrimage between his two homes.

So Stanley forges new identities for other people, and new relationships, only to drive himself deeper into the mire. But he does it with what dignity he can muster, in a voice that seems to be slowly squeezed rather than unduly exercised. There's a touch of the nasal here, too, and this, combined with the generally level-toned delivery, does sometimes mean that he does not come through as loud and clear as he might.

Po-faced anguish is wrapped up in a costume consisting of shorts and shirt in different floral patterns, with sandals and half-calf-length navy blue socks, and it is a pleasure to wallow in it.

Helen Lammas is one of the wives – spirited and feisty, though liable to be locked out of the way in various rooms from time to time; Carolyn Barnicoat is the other – a kindly, happy soul. Here are two pleasing accounts of how to face the outsize crisis of which their respective teenage children, spiritedly played by Jessica Hirst and James Bacon, are the unwitting causes.

Then there's Jim Austin as Dad, apt to speak with a squeak and to be packed off out of the way every time another drama is upon the household. It is he whose verbal indiscretions lead to his having his walking-stick kicked away from him – followed next time by an hilarious moment when he pitches onto the floor after he shows repentance by kicking the stick for himself.

There ought to be a full house every night. To 24.7.10.

John Slim Box Office 01905 611 427 

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