DOLLY: Andy Barrett.
Lakeside Arts Centre: Tkts 0115 846 7777 www.lakesidearts.org.uk
Touring Details: New Perspectives Theatre Company, www.newperspectives.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 15m:one interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 25 October 2010.
An original idea which works – up to a point.
Nottingham-based writer Andy Barrett re-treads a well-worn plot. A talented young woman from the sticks dreams of making it big in show business. With the help of an enthused manager/lover she makes a big initial splash then fades back, minus the bloke, into semi-contented obscurity. But he welds that plot onto the factual story of Dolly the Sheep, the first ever cloned animal.
It’s Country and Western meets the world of science; the music of Dolly Parton – the real sheep was named after her – collides with types in white lab coats; themes of female aspiration compete for our attention with issues associated with science and ethics.
It’s an original idea for a play; and it works, up to a point.
One problem is that, given Barrett’s text and characters, the actors are often painted into very soapy corners. There are too many lines like “What’s that supposed to mean?”. And too often the actors have little choice but to resort to pulling stock facial expressions: it would be a cheap quip to say that along with the lamb you get a generous helping of ham, but it would be true.
Another, albeit lesser, problem is one that often crops up in plays about boffins. Jaws drop with utter bafflement every time someone says anything remotely scientific. This is despite some excellent stuff about science from Barrett in his programme notes. When poor Neil (John Elkington), the cloner-in-chief, ventures a word about the nature/nurture issue he’s slapped down by wife Mary (Kate Adams), who orders him not to talk as if he’s in his lecture theatre.
There’s some toe-tapping singing and musicianship though – In the Sweet By and By near the end is particularly good. Everyone in the cast doubles as a musician. Miriam Elwell-Sutton is a very effective and fetching as central character Bettina, the Parton wannabee clone, but with every actor on stage nearly all the time it’s an unselfish ensemble piece. The lamb and sheep puppetry is remarkably good.
The play is directed by Daniel Buckroyd, who’s commendably ready to take risks, some of which come off, some of which don’t.
Mary: Kate Adams.
Ensemble: George Chalmers.
Neil: John Elkington.
Bettina: Miriam Elwell-Sutton.
Ensemble/Puppeteer: Charlotte Higgins.
Gavin/Jim: Greg Patmore.
Leo: Christopher Redmond.
Isla/Helen: Claire Storey.
Director: Daniel Buckroyd.
Set Designer: Juliet Shillingford.
Lighting Designer: Stuart Crohill.
Sound Designer: Adam McCready.
Musical Director/Arranger: Richard Reeday.