Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
It's always a bold move by a local theatre
to stage a two-hander, both in box office terms and the extra
demands placed on the company over keeping an audience's interest
Fortunately there are no such problems here. Director David
Draper capitalises on the use of two strong performers and
another fine John Ellam set which perfectly captures the bookish
and somewhat jaded environment of alcoholic Open University
There is also the seemingly evergreen appeal of playwright
Willy Russell whose name will still act as a draw even if
some of the original pungency has been diluted by the passing
The humour remains broad and fairly obvious. It's a clash
between culture and the commoner as represented by literature
(E. M. Forster) being rubbished and poetry being pigeon-holed
as only any good if you can understand it. Rita the would-be
student says it how it is in her sing-song Scouser style.
Frank stumbles off to find another bottle of Scotch filed
behind Charles Dickens.
The parts are played with incisive skill by Julie-Ann Randell
and Matthew Salisbury. She is outwardly brash and funny; he
is cynical and world-weary. She is inwardly tragic, seeking
some new inspiration and meaning to life outside a bad marriage;
he has reached a point of self-loathing - "There is less to
me than meets the eye...."
Both players turn up the heat well and it's easy to see why
Russell's analysis of how roles and attitudes can reverse
was so well received in the Eighties. Today, however, we are
more attuned to the whims of class-conscious society so the
play has a somewhat laboured feel and the first act is far
too long and repetitive.
Russell may be observant and witty, but unlike Wilde and Coward
and even the Ayckbourn of earlier days, not all of his work
stands the test of time.