by Robert Holman
Orange Tree Theatre to 02 04 16,
1 Clarence Street,
Surrey TW9 2SA
Eves 7.30pm; Thurs & Sat mat 2.30pm
Runs: 1hr 25mins, no interval
TICKETS: Box Office: 020 8940 3633
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday
10am – 5.30pm on the Kew Road side
From 5.30 – 7pm in the theatre Box Office
From 7pm bookings and print tickets only for that evening’s show
Review: Carole Woddis of perf seen March 7, 2016:
Plenty of meanings hidden away, awaiting discovery
Robert Holman has long been a favourite, ever since seeing Making Noise Quietly and Other Worlds in the early ‘80s. So Orange Tree and Up in Arms revival of one of his very early works is very welcome.
Alice Hamilton’s Up in Arms, the company who brought us Barney Norris’ excellent Visitors (winner of Critics Circle Best New Play 2014) would seem to be a perfect fit. Like Holman, Norris observes the ifs and buts of ordinary people’s lives with acute and tender detail. Holman, who writes from intuition he confesses, has produced a stream of little gems of understated diffidence and human intersections which often feel far too genuine to have been written to suit today’s, or yesterday’s fashion for that matter.
In German Skerries, not a great deal happens. A primary school teacher and a young manual worker meet whilst bird-watching. They chat about the birds, the landscape (wonderfully conjured in words); later the young man’s girl-friend, Carol will join him. During the course of the evening an event will happen that upsets her. And she and Jack will discuss the future.
And that’s about it. But of course, there is a good deal going on in the idle chat – about feeling old (it’s a mark of how things have changed in the 39 years since German Skerries premiered that 59 is no longer considered `old’); about ambition and choices from the independent minded Carol.
In such a play of quiet subtleties, hopes and limitations, the acting is everything, as is a sense of place. Hamilton gets the sense of place – the north east coast – absolutely right with sounds of crashing surf.
But a little disappointingly, the in-the-round Orange Tree somehow mitigates against a sense of space. Holman’s characters work best cast in relief. Individuals dwarfed by the infinite largesse of our universe yet carving out their own small destinies can be a thrilling sight.
George Evans Jack, Howard Ward’s older Martin and Katie Moore’s spirited Carol all breathe air, light and shade into their characters. The writing is as true and beguiling as ever. But somewhere, it skips a heartbeat.
By Ribert Holman
Jack Williams: George Evans
Martin Jones: Howard Ward
Michael Haddaway: Henry Everett
Carol Williams: Katie Moore
Director: Alice Hamilton
Designer: James Perkins
Lighting Designer: Simon Gethin Thomas
Sound Designer & Composer: George Dennis
Dialect Coach: Mark Langley
Casting Consultant: Charlotte Sutton
An Orange Tree and Up in Arms production in association with Reading Rep.
German Skerries was first presented at the Bush Theatre on Jan 25, 1977
First perf of this production at the Orange Tree, London, March 3, 2016.
Followed by tour to Reading Rep, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Dukes Lancaster and Hull Truck Theatre