Wed, 12 Dec 2018
Boundary Players: Men of the World, at the William Penney Theatre, from November 28 to December 1
Review by DEREK ANSELL
FRANK, Stick and Larry are coach drivers in Yorkshire, regularly taking trips to the continent and locally with senior citizens. Frank though, is a woman and when asked why the name, she says “Don’t ask”. Stick is also a woman and Larry is a man – well at least one of them is exactly what he appears to be.
These three are used to each other and regularly travel in a three-coach convoy to the Rhine Valley in Germany. They travel from Yorkshire, down’t motorway and sometimes even pick up ‘a foreigner, from Leicester’ on their journey. They are full of tales about the passengers they are carrying – like the woman who refused to embark on a mystery tour until told where they were going – and they have names for their more eccentric customers like ‘The Beverley Sisters’ and the ‘Marx Brothers’.
Some passengers are regularly late back on board the coach after a motorway services stop and others constantly get on the wrong coach. As the trip continues, the three drivers talk about the ups and downs of their job, the disasters that occur along the way and the general boredom of long journeys to the same place with no relief, even with sleep that only produces dreams, or nightmares, of endless stretches of road in front of them. At the end of the run, a substandard production of The Student Prince in a castle in Germany is not much of a temptation. And Larry singing his favourite Mario Lanza song from the
show is hardly a bonus.
John Godber’s Yorkshire play is a three-hander for the drivers, who also get to play various passengers by the simple expedient of wearing a flat cap or hat or a pair of glasses. Neil Padgen produced a good character study of Larry, a man who secretly cares about his job and his passengers, but tries not to show it. The versatile Emily Browne did very well as a driver, passengers and a brief routine as a female singer impersonating a drag act. Yes, really. Pat Archer played Stick, a rather more aggressive character, frequently being disagreeable or trying to goad Larry into a fight. All three did very well in a variety of quick-change characters on a bare set, where the only props were a collection of various-sized suitcases and three chairs. There were times when they could have kept still on stage a little more than they did, but generally these were well worked out vignettes and the Yorkshire accents were nicely observed.
Pacing was good and the quick, short scenes were presented in good order by director Mary Robinson. Mind you, it did make you wonder how closely you are watched by drivers on coach trips.