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A Man of No Importance review at Salisbury Playhouse

It’s good to see regional theatres make bold programming choices, and Gareth Machin has done a smart job of offering his Salisbury audience a musical that seems conventional on its touchingly low-key surface but through which much darker currents run. Presenting a tale about the redemptive power of theatre, it is also a surprisingly powerful show about tolerance and acceptance within a community.

Like Once, now running in the West End, this is a tale of unrequited love set in Dublin. In this case, however, it’s a love that dare not speak its name as a bus conductor called Alfie, who is wild about Wilde, finds echoes of his own life in the great Oscar’s. Not only is he directing his St Imelda Players amateur theatre company in a production of Salome, but he is pining for his very own Bosie – Robbie, the driver of his bus.

Some of these parallels are a little overstretched in Terrence McNally’s poignant, reflective book, but Ahrens and Flaherty’s score creates an aural canvas for it to play out to that is bewitching, stretching from Irish jigs and comedy numbers to the thrilling The Streets of Dublin, magnificently sung by Fra Fee’s Robbie.

Fee, who looks (and sings) like a quirkier version of a young Michael Ball, is a star in the making, seen recently in the film version of Les Miserables, so it’s good to see him returning to the theatre so quickly. He also proves equally adept on accordion, piano and flute, among the company of actor-musicians that prompts another reminder of Once.

Gareth Machin’s production is full of committed and appealing performances, including the touching Alfie of Mark Meadows and Laura Pitt-Pulford as an unmarried pregnant woman conscripted to play Salome.

Production Information

Salisbury Playhouse, April 25-May 18

Stephen Flaherty (music), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), Terrence McNally (book)
Gareth Machin
Salisbury Playhouse
Mark Meadows, Fra Fee, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Angela Bain, Esther Biddle, Richard Emerson, Samuel Martin, Robert Maskell, Mia Soteriou, Christopher Talman, Susannah van den Berg, Roy Weskin
Running time
2hrs 45mins