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Posted by : al_geary on Apr 10, 2018 - 10:03 AM Midlands

HOLES: Louis Sachar.

Nottingham Playhouse.
Runs: 1h 45m: one interval: till 22nd April.
Performance times: 7.00pm (matinees 3.00pm 15th, 21st and 22nd, and 1.30pm 17th and 18th)
Review: Alan Geary: 5th April 2018.

Unlike a lot of feel-good plays this one actually makes you feel good.

There’s a lot of them about these days. That is plays for (nearly) all the family involving animal puppetry of one sort or another. In Holes, directed by Adam Penford, it’s mainly a matter of rattlesnakes and lizards on strings; this is the arid lands of west Texas. We also get a horse on wheels – and two pigs played by balloons.

We’re following the misfortunes of young Stanley Yelnats (splendidly done by Chris Ashby, well known as Christopher in the original London run of Curious Incident). Yelnats – a palindrome of Stanley of course – has been unjustly dumped in a harsh corrective institution. His crime? He’s supposed to have stolen a pair of sneakers.

The inmates spend their days in back-breaking labour, pointlessly digging holes in a dried-up lake bed. Turns out though that the digging’s not so pointless after all, at least for bent female Warden (Kacey Ainsworth, excellent in a number of roles).

Sub-plots in highly effective flashback feature 19th-century forebears of some of the characters in the contemporary action – the most moving and tragic part of the evening involves love across the racial divide between delightful western schoolmarm, Miss Barlow (Elizabeth Twells) and onion-seller turned handyman, Sam (Greg Lockett).

Both Twells and Lockett successfully handle a number of parts. So does Edward Harrison (especially compelling as jealous and vengeful bad boy Trout Walker in the Miss Barlow/Sam sub-plot). John Elkington (a Nottingham Playhouse regular) is completely convincing in all his parts – as second-in-command at the desert camp he makes his character rib-ticklingly cruel and dreadful.

It’s all done with smooth scene changes on a stylised open set with adaptable props. And the occasional background and on-stage music is excellent.

Unlike a lot of feel-good plays this one actually makes you feel good.

The Warden/Madam Zeroni/Mrs Collingwood/Linda Walker: Kacey Ainsworth.
Stanley Yelnats: Chris Ashby.
X-Ray: Ammar Duffas.
Mr Sir/Judge/Igor Barkov/Sheriff: John Elkington.
Stanley’s Dad/Mr Pendanski/Trout Walker/Elya: Edward Harrison.
Magnet: Safiyya Ingar.
Sam/Policeman/Myra’s Father/Tough Kid/Attorney General/ Clyde Livingston: Greg Lockett.
Zero: Pepter Lunkuse.
Armpit: Henry Mettle.
‘Kissin’ Kate Barlow/Stanley’s Mom/Myra/Sarah/Ms Morengo: Elizabet Twells.

Director: Adam Penford.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting Designer: Prema Mehta.
Sound Designer: Adam P McCready.
Composer/MD: Tom Attwood.
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