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I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the privilege of reviewing the Players’ productions now for what seems a very long time and I really do have to say that it’s shows like this that keep me coming back time and time again. A quick glance at their recent programming alone shows how many things the Players managed to sneak in while I’ve been busy elsewhere, but over the years there’s no doubt they’ve repeatedly been able to unearth half-forgotten treasures which definitely deserved to bask once more in the light of day.
Willy (Blood Brothers, Educating Rita) Russell’s 1979 comedy One For The Road is just such a treat, a farce somewhat in the mode of Mike Leigh’s seminal Abigail’s Party with a touch of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? thrown in.
Dennis (an increasingly powerful Nigel Lowe) is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis in his made-it dormer bungalow on a new, upwardly mobile estate. His wife Pauline, played by the superbly observant Rachel Duncan is the guardian of their social niceties as she sets the scene for a dinner party with their closest friends Roger (Ian Davies) and Jane (Louise Brennan).
Director Sarah Stanley and set designer Andrew Bodger have a field day reviving already-period details stretching from references to Sue Lawley and Russell Harty to giant padded earphones, music centres, tupperware, John Denver records and a newly-kindled interest in foreign cuisine. But despite his new prosperity, Dennis still isn’t happy. He’s 45 and still listening to his rambling and tumbling hero Bob Dylan. Yes, Dennis wants to go back out on the road, while the misdiagnosis of his problems by both his wife and his friends leads to plenty of comic confusion.
I won’t spoil it by saying how it all pans out but the second act is definitely worth waiting for, funny, poignant, fast paced and ultimately very satisfying. If it’s got a message it’s that we may all feel the call of the wild from time to time but may be wise enough to believe east, west, home’s best. Still, on the way back home there’s more than a little merriment, some great stagecraft and a raft of thoroughly professional performances from this confident cast. There’s always a star, and right from her entrance Rachel Duncan as the uptight wife had my vote, but by the end I must report she can only share the crown here with Louise Brennan as her bitchy friend Jane. Yes, Players – you’ve done it again.
The production runs until June 12. For tickets phone the Box Office on 01543 412141 or from the Garrick web site.
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