THE ASHES To 17 September.


by Michael Pinchbeck.

Nottingham Playhouse To 17 September 2011.
Wed-Sat 7.45pm Mat 15 September 1.30pm.
Audio-described 14 Sept.
BSL Signed/Captioned 16 Sept.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 0115 9419419.
Review: Jen Mitchell 6 September.

A riveting piece of sporting and social history.
This play not only charts the journey towards the Ashes tour of Australia of 1932 and the obsessive planning by Captain Douglas Jardine (Jamie De Courcey) but the political storm that was kicked up by the controversial Bodyline bowling technique adopted by the team, notably Harold Larwood, to halt the seemingly unstoppable Donald Bradman.

The story is told through five telegrams sent between Sydney and London as the Australians protest against the controversial bowling tactics. Scenes from the past are projected onto three large screens at the back of the stage as we are transported back to 1930s Australia with the aid of original Pathe newsreels.

Larwood and Bill Voce are the boys from the Nottinghamshire coalfield who have escaped the mines through the power of their bowling arms but their struggle continues. The experiences of the professional players and the amateur gentlemen like Douglas Jardine, who worked Larwood tirelessly until he had literally given blood, sweat and tears to secure the Ashes win, were vastly different.

Had cricket become the great leveller for these men, had they all become ‘gentlemen’? Or were some still used as work-horses, cannon fodder for the angry Australian spectators and press? The audience is left to draw their own conclusions about all the social sub-plots – which is both reassuring and strangely unfamiliar these days. Ultimately, however, none of the England team returned to the hero’s welcome they were promised.

The cast slip seamlessly between roles with particularly fine performances from Paul Trussell as Frank Foster and Karl Haynes as Larwood. Sarah Churm (Lois Larwood) lives every moment of the matches in the cinema in Mansfield, waiting for her husband’s return. There are many moments of gentle comedy although the funniest lines are delivered by the rather remote and ambitious Jardine.

Not only did I develop an interest in cricket as a sport but I really cared about the human beings involved in the 1932 Ashes test. There is a rather poetic beauty in the fact Larwood returned to Australia to live out his days with his family until his death in 1995.

Pelham ‘Plum’ Warner/’Gubby’ Allen: Robin Bowerman.
Lois Larwood: Sarah Churm.
Douglas Jardine: Jamie de Courcey.
Harold Larwood: Karl Haynes.
William ‘Bill’ Voce: Daniel Hoffmann-Gill.
Frank Foster/Arthur Carr/Bill Bowes: Paul Trussell.
John ‘Jack’ Fingleton/Sir Julien Cahn: Damien Warren-Smith.

Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Michael Vale.
Lighting: David Phillips.
Sound: Adam McCready.
AV Design: Barret Hodgson.
Assistant director: Elyn Friedrichs.

2011-09-12 02:26:00

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