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

DIY not all its says on the tin

The Maintenance Man

The Nonentities

Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


BOB can't help himself. If there's a do-it-yourself job waiting to be done, he has to do it. It's a pleasure. When he has two ladies in his life with jobs in mind, it just becomes a pleasure with complications.

This is comedy – but the glimpse that writer Richard Harris allows us of the dismal side of d-i-y is hardly one of unalloyed laughter.

Comedy, yes, but comedy with a sharp and incisive edge; comedy with a bitter taste. The shelving unit that Bob is building stands upstage, plumb bang centre, to all intents and purposes acting as the divider between the territory that belongs to his wife and that of the  new woman in his life.

It's symbolic, too, of the frustrations in which three lives have become enmeshed – which is why, when frustration takes over again, it would have been better, if not remotely practical, for one of the women to have smashed the half-built unit instead of throwing some as-yet-unused pieces of wood onto the floor.

Right from the start, we see Bob, armed with drill and saw, seeking in vain to progress with his masterpiece.  

Stef Austin is the man with a drill and a domestic crisis, with Mary-Janye Jones (left) and Georgina Biggs helping to make life just that little more difficult for him.

The saw, particularly, imposes itself on our awareness with its noise volume as it slices its way through yet another piece of timber.

 At one point, for a few moments, it drowns out one of the women as she makes what is no doubt a highly relevant point.

The audience becomes involved with the shelving unit – so much so that when Bob, who is a writer, eventually manages to persuade another shelf into place, the response is a near-delirious cheer, even though it turns out that this still leaves him with the need to give his attention to some plumbing, a car engine and a fence.

Stefan Austin is Bob – amenable enough and likeable enough, but destined to be the hapless pawn in a sort of cross between a tug o' war and a catfight. Yes, he does his best to state his case, but he really does not have a hope.

Georgina Biggs is his wife, Chris. She can be reduced to tears or roused to fury, while Mary-Jayne Jones, as Diane, is eventually not impressed by the realisation that destiny is embodied in a Black & Decker.

These are three excellent performances, centred on a single set which serves as the sitting room of two houses. Director Lynn Ravenhill copes splendidly with the need to spread the message that life is real and life is earnest, in spite of any wild expectations of laughter unlimited. Yes, there is laughter, but there are many instances where, if laughter comes, it is that mistaken, apologetic sort that arrives with a built-in embarrassment factor.

To 6-11-10

John Slim


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