Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Barney Norris strikes gold again with this elegy for British country life

The ingredients of Barney Norris’s new play are as familiar as salt and vinegar crisps: a bullish country pub landlord; his hapless glass-collecting lackey; and a sexually frustrated lady organist who nips in for a lemonade and a crafty fag after services. Achingly familiar, but sharp too. Like a diligent bartender, Norris has a talent for polishing the ordinary, buffing it up with a damp cloth until it shines and sings.
His acclaimed last play, ‘Visitors’, captured dementia’s hazy, vanishing memories. This brilliantly perceptive new offering is about vanishing worlds too, contained in a Hampshire beer garden.

Alice Hamilton’s direction coaxes hyperrealistic performances from the cast of three. James Doherty’s booze-soaked landlord John is the life and soul of the play – as well as of the building that’s stolen his life and soul. There’s a crisp pub humour to his jokes, including a particularly salty tale of a blowjob-administering ferret, but he consoles local lad Mark with poetry that hints at his deeper hunger. ‘What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare,’ quotes John, cheerfully crediting the lines to a Center Parcs ad.

Norris’s rural setting might deliver on pretty trees and fields, but it leaves little room for meditation. Hasan Dixon, as Mark, unleashes a furious pub-garden diatribe against a world that has forced him to labour on roadworks through a funeral and is making John sell off his pub.

Sentimentality is a luxury reserved for the incomers who push up the property prices when old buffers push up the daisies.

Norris’s play toasts a side of country life that’s disappearing as fast as sights glimpsed through a speeding car window. It’s as democratic, convivial and scented with stale disappointment as the pub it celebrates.




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