You are not from round here, are you?
The intimate and frankly rather sweaty space at the Maddermarket Theatre known as the Emerson Studio was completely filled today for this bucolic romp of a show – not least as with a cast of eight dashing about the performance space was fully used.
This lively show, skillfully written by Becky Pick and directed by Molly Farley is set in village England and gives us eight very distinct characters with suitably rural outlooks, but some decidedly suburban sexual frankness. It is rather more Vicar of Dibley than Ambridge, lacking the high crime rate and sheer unpleasantness of the Ambridge crew these days.
Set in the local pub we spy on the ruminations of the Gardening Committee and their political sparring for the election of a new chair, or president even. Into this finely honed procedure a bomb drops – someone in the village has sold a field or two and a new housing development is on the way. Ructions will ensue. Posh Dave (Harry Benjamin) is married to Barbara (Alexandra Hayes) and they have a daughter Judy (Nancy Melia) who is full of enthusiasm but has rather limited horizons. The next postcode would probably be a step too far for her. Eileen (Emily Westway) is a planning official with the local council who shares a dark secret with Barbara with whom she enjoyed some steamy passions in Scunthorpe years ago. I know. Scunthorpe.
Conspiracy theorist and apprentice yokel Bill (Alex Grauwiler) cannot understand why his missus Deborah (Freya Bennett) wants them to try taking other partners, although he does seem to like following young Judy about. Helen (Erin Clancy) is the pariah who has sold her land to the developers and the cast is completed by Bernard (Rohan Gotobed) whose actions always merit the response ‘not now!’
Barbara is determined to prevent the plans being approved for the new houses, so decides that it might be handy to rekindle her romance with Eileen. The characters help to set the scene for lots of glorious misadventure and some world class punning – there will be a lot of ‘come on Eileen’ and the like. The show is lively and fast paced but actually gives a real insight into the way that small English communities work, burying the truths about their own foibles and peccadilloes when they get the chance to unite against those who are ‘not from round here’ – perhaps almost too topical in these days of division and intolerance (well if you read the tabloids, that is).
There is sufficient music and singing to just about allow the description of musical theatre, although the singing is more an accurate representation of village talent than a bid for Terpsichorian excellence. It ends with a rather delightful twist and is all over almost too quickly, leaving this enthusiastic audience wanting more. All the cast members have obviously enjoyed creating and honing their diverse characters who whizz through this tale of good sex, bad singing and town and country planning laws while never losing sight of exactly where in the social pecking order they belong, and may never leave. Every member of this cast do their utmost to make this show a delight and it has that lively feel of a show that will develop more nuances (and dreadful one-liners) as the cast enjoy the feedback and enthusiasm of their audiences.
Coast to Coast tackle ambitious but topical themes, as their last show ‘About Lester’ demonstrated with its take on the #MeToo movement. Nowt as Queer as Folk looks at the resistance to incomers in settled communities, while also probing the intolerances that some allow to divide those communities even further. But it is great fun, presented in almost cartoon style with loud and large characters who deserve to pack out the Edinburgh venues that they are heading for now. Tinfoil hats are optional!
© Julian Swainson 2018