by Simon Longman.
Bike Shed Theatre 162-163 Fore Street EX4 3AT 9-14 March.
7.30pm Mat Sat 2pm.
Post-show Discussion 12 Mar.
TICKETS: 01392 434169.
then Theatre Severn (Walker Theatre) Frankwell Quay SY3 8FT 17-18 March 2015.
Post-show Discussion 17 Mar.
TICKETS: 01743 281281.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 March at Soho Theatre Upstairs London.
Pint-sized comedy with litres of wit.
With 40 years touring the West Midlands and beyond Pentabus Theatre has clocked-up the miles without the wheels growing squeaky. Their week in London, towards the end of a rural tour (the company’s core preoccupation), with Simon Longman’s new play Milked must have formed a test for the actors, in terms of what’s found funny and why, and the pace and depth of response.
This is the company whose early shows included one called Lost in London and whose Tales of the Country half a decade ago explored the experience of changing life in Crouch End for the back of beyond – its ‘Mr Fog’ passage delightfully encapsulating urban/rural misunderstanding through pronunciation and pace of thought.
There’s pace a-plenty in Longman’s two-hander and more than a few laughs, especially upfront. What it says about the rural school-leaver is more complex. Here’s Paul, thinking to jump straight into a metropolitan media job, and his friend Snowy who likes going for walks in the country. But Snowy’s the stronger personality – at least he ends-up having his way, if only by the attrition of repetition.
Which becomes important when they come across a sick cow while out walking (Snowy having got his way again). Longman skilfully sidesteps the probability of what would have happened – and prolongs the sick beast’s existence (enduring their attempts to cure or kill it demonstrates the creature’s strong will and tough hide) – to show their incompetence. And isolation from the wider reality occasionally intruding in radio news.
Initial simple hopes fade, the pace slows and finally the lighting glooms-over as they are separated unexpectedly, by life rather than by tragedy. In Elizabeth Freestone’s alert production they end up sitting together, the fizz of Paul’s optimism and happy-go-lucky Snowy’s energy rebuffed by life. And a cow’s refusal to die.
Adam Redmore’s concerned but convincible Paul, and Oliver Mott’s Snowy, protected by his narrow outlook, provide precision-rhythmed comedy while becoming attuned to the advent of life’s complexities. It’s not the sublest probing into coming-of-age but it uses comedy to make its point while the characters, however naïve, hold-on to our sympathy.
Paul: Adam Redmore.
Snowy: Oliver Mott.
Director: Elizabeth Freestone.
Designer: Ellan Parry.
Lighting: James Mackenzie.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.