Pentabus is a community-orientated, fit-up touring theatre company that is not afraid of taking on ‘issues’, and some of its endeavours have put it into the classier kind of award nominations.
But Tales of the Country really concerns itself with a single story, concerning a family who swap a cosy house in Crouch End for the rigorous – not to mention frequently aggravating – life in what is blithely called “a remote corner of Herefordshire”.
The use of a tent for the permanent set has its virtues and its drawbacks. The business of the play, with its predictable fetes, local pubs and so on requires a character to hurt her foot in the newly-acquired petit manoir to which the Viners have moved. But imagination has its limits and the house and its frustrations are difficult to imagine.
The multi-purpose tent changed from being a novelty to a mild irritation, and a pair of up-stage strip lights created a blinding glare.
This kind of narrative, frequently trite, left me wanting to know more about the Viners, but little was forthcoming. A rare and human moment occurred when bar talk drifted into upbringing and we were told of adoptions and orphanages, which lay in two backgrounds. Sadly, the scene was over in a flash, but it could have been extended into a warm and fruitful exploration of a common bond of parental rejection and the beginnings of a friendship as Brian Viner (Matthew Bates) found acceptance into the socially introverted local community.
Certainly these highly talented, likeable actors were more than capable of it and their doubling and trebling of characters was fascinating.
Rose, Kidderminster, April 22, then touring until May16
- Brian Viner
- Orla O’Loughlin
- Pentabus Theatre
- Cast includes
- Matthew Bates, Sean Carlsen, Ian Ridley, Sarah Stanley, Claire Vousden.
- Running time
- 1hr 50mins