Date 23rd February 2018
Society The Peakland Players
Venue The ShireHorse, Wyaston
Type of Production Play
Director Peter Allan


Author: Joyce Handbury

The play was written by Jim Cartwright as a ‘two-hander’ with the Landlord and Landlady of a pub playing all the various characters that frequented it. Rather than this be the case the Director, Peter Allan, decided that the characters should be played by different actors and if possible for it to be set in a real pub. They obviously struck gold as it did take place in the The Shire Horse pub at Wyaston with multiple actors playing the roles. From the outset we, as the ‘audience’, were very much part of the play as we sat around the pub tables in the bar area and were obviously able to take advantage of the availability of having a drink! Continuously throughout the performance there was interaction with ‘the audience’ from all of the players but especially from the Landlord and Landlady and at one point my friend and I were given a cheese and onion cob to eat! The pub has a restaurant, which was open, and from time to time a ‘proper barman’ would come to the bar to get drinks for the eating customers which added even more realism to the whole ambience as did the little dog that had a wander about. The Landlord, Tim Warburton, and the Landlady, Debbie Ashton-Cleary were absolutely brilliant. Their constant banter and bickering, their asides to ‘us’ about how they felt about each other, the chatting and serving drinks to ‘imaginery’ customers, the involvement and interaction with ‘the audience’ were all superbly delivered. It wasn’t till the end of the play when a young boy is lost and found crying in the pub that we learn that their own son had died seven years previously in tragic circumstances and that they have never really discussed this or talked about it. Their pent-up feelings surface and they quite aggressively confront one another talking of guilt, blame and sadness etc. The insight into their true feelings about the whole issue and to witness their anguish, their hurt, their anger and their pain was so emotionally and movingly portrayed that tears just rolled down my face. It all ended with the Landlord saying ‘I love you’ as he walked out of the bar with a similar retort from the Landlady. It was superb acting from both of them throughout the play but this confrontation was just outstanding. First we meet The Old Woman, so touchingly and expressively played by Sally Hamer. She told us of her life which involved looking after her invalid husband and as she said, “my day, my life, my drink here” - just left you feeling so sad for her. Next to enter the pub were Moth, played by Steve Hughes, and Maudie, played by Lizzy Butterfield. As Moth walked through the pub he was ‘chatting-up’ the ladies in the ‘audience’ much to the dismay of Maudie. He asks her for money for drinks and Maudie realises that she has to ‘get some strength’ and eventually walks off. He then tries to ‘get round’ her by putting his last 10p in the Juke Box, they dance, his ‘back’ goes, she now feels she has the upper hand and tells him to make an honest woman of her - he hugs her but as they stagger out he ‘eyes up’ yet another woman - oh well! Both Steve and Lizzy were first-rate. Next to wander into the pub is the Old Man so poignantly played by Bob Pugh. Whilst reliving the fond memories of his late wife he kept pausing, just staring into space in between his thoughts, it was just so convincingly believable, a super portrayal. A bus trip descends on the pub and the Landlady magnificently reels of their gargantuan order of drinks, not forgetting the crisps of course. Mr. and Mrs. Iger have been sitting in the pub throughout all the previous incidents and suddenly Mrs. Iger, stridently and splendidly played by Niki Hughes, bursts forth fantasizing about her love for ‘big men’ in quite graphic detail whilst belittling her self-effacing husband, perfectly played by Peter Francis, who is desperately trying to buy a drink at the bar. On his return she calls him ‘Feeble Man’ and in that moment he loses it, she tries to calm him down and on their departure he says, “does that mean I can sleep in the bed tonight” - who wears the trousers in that relationship I wonder! After the interval Roy (Liam Duffy) and his wife Lesley (Heidi Donohue) make their entrance. He babbles on about various things and Lesley excuses herself to go to the toilet. What starts out as amusing chat from him soon turns into something quite sinister and dark as on her return Roy fires questions at his wife and she responds with monosyllabic answers not looking at him at all. He gets angry and Lesley at last retaliates and walks off only to return to ask for the key. He tries to soft soap her but out of the blue hits her and storms off. This episode was so cleverly and brilliantly orchestrated - they were both excellent. Fred (Andy Brooks) and Alice (Melanie Ferguson Allen) had been sitting in the ‘audience’ from the very start when Alice suddenly gets up to adjust the ‘television’. Their part in the play brought some well needed light relief. Alice has problems with her nerves but Fred so tenderly looked after her. They were a lovely and loving couple, quite naive and Andy and Melanie exquisitely portrayed these characteristics. As last orders were being called a Woman sidled up to the bar talking about her ‘affair’ etc. and the fact that she was watching and spying on the ‘other woman’- a fine performance from Ro Brooks. My sincere apologies for this rather lengthy review, but I thought that this was such an incredible piece of theatre that I had to ‘ramble on’ in order to do justice to such an exceptional group of actors all so well cast in their respective roles. Congratulations to Director Peter Allen, to a magnificent cast and to everyone involved for a truly triumphant and exceptional experience.