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Poles Apart review at Theatre Royal, Wakefield – ‘shaky new comedy from John Godber’

Scene from Poles Apart at Theatre Royal, Wakefield. Photo: Amy Charles Media Scene from Poles Apart at Theatre Royal, Wakefield. Photo: Amy Charles Media
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John Godber’s new comedy centres on a Tower of Babel-like structure made from scaffold tubing assembled on the stage of a fictional theatre just hours from opening-night previews. The only problem is, the hard hats and theatre crew seem to be speaking an entirely different language to one another, and time is running out.

Godber, who also directs, has conceived a clash-of-cultures comedy – the punning title referring to the Polish character of scaffolder Jan (Frazer Hammill) – yet sadly what follows is merely a tired cascade of yob philosophising, hyperactive hissy-fits on all sides, with a catalogue of one-liners groaning under the burden of cliche. The moral code throughout is strictly tabloid, the humour pitched somewhere between the U-bend and bowl of a Portaloo cabin.

Piling on the punnery, the genial Jan has a talent for – wait for it – pole dancing. Meanwhile, Fat Pete (Adrian Hood) thinks he may have mistakenly put cat food in his sandwich this morning in lieu of potted meat. The script chases cheap laughs and, with these two, on the whole gets them.

But Godber leaves the heavy lifting to the lead role of Phil, who is required to provide much of the friction between both parties. Regrettably, Keith Hukin plays this part exclusively on one level, dolefully screaming most of his lines while appearing under-rehearsed, leaving the production bereft of any sense of gravity or meaning.

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Shaky opening for John Godber's new culture-clash comedy, relieved only by the occasional burst of genuine humour