Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre Company- All's Fair , Sherman Theatre, Cardiff , September 1, 2000
One rather surprising Welsh GCSE set text is this bitterwsweet wartime study, originally written by Frank Vickery nearly 20 years ago for Valleys community and theatre-in-education group Spectacle Theatre, now revived by the Sherman Theatre Company.

One suspects that Vickery, a playwright with an ear for the vernacular and an infallible finger on the pulse of working-class Valleys culture, did not find the collaboration with the small, politically-driven community-theatre group, with their commitment to everybody having a say in the making of their shows and playing in small, intimate venues, an entirely happy experience - he was, after all, used to writing for an enthusiastic (and talented) amateur company and seeing his dark-edged comedies staged in an upfront style on the stage of the Parc and Dare in Treorchy.

And if the Sherman's revival, directed by Vickery's champion, Phil Clark, someone who has made the move himself from community theatre to mainstage and brought with him all the values of small, accessible, populist theatre, doesn't entirely work, it's probably because it's that rarity, a Vickery play that is essentially small-scale and really needs the audience to be more involved - it looks lost on the Sherman stage.

Somehow the story, basically about love and freedom but set within the framework of a family during the second world war, seems slighter - and indeed, it is not the narrative but the emotional force that is the strength of this piece, the dilemma of the woman in love with a married GI who has to decide whether to follow her heart or her head. The cliches of wartime nostalgia - the horsemeat, the rare banana, the gravy-browning-and- pencil stockings, the gasmasks in cardboard boxes - are predictable and tired, rather than evocative. The use of the sounds of bombing raids as a metaphor for the emotional turmoil is clever but too much. Floating between dramatic conventions, it doesn't have enough character development or really funny lines to make it a typical early-Vickery farce or enough intensity to make it a more subtle later-Vickery moral study.

There's still enough to satisfy the fans, though, and many will respond to the wartime descriptions - but for the rest of us, it is more likely to make us hope that this gifted dramatist will offer us something new that explores the depths revealed in plays like Erogenous Zones.

This article is David Adams 2000

Reviewed by: David Adams

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