It's a bold choice for this spring's rural tour by the Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal in conjunction with Spinning Wheel Theatre. Designer Becca Gibbs gives us an extremely realistic setting – you really feel that you've come into a pub – in which director Amy Wyllie blends the naturalistic with the symbolic, so that the characters we actually meet handle real glasses and crisp packets while the landlords pour mimed drinks for those regulars to whose stories we are not made privy.
As the play progresses, the mood darkens. We find sympathy for the lonely elderly woman now simply a carer for her husband, for the widower who clings to his memories and for the boy who wanders in looking for his father (who is searching for him) while his mother languishes in hospital.
We hope that Maudie will finally mange to rope in her would-be lothario of a sponger boy-friend and wonder at the odd relationship between the ever-so-hearty wife and her meek husband or that of the couple who play practical japes with each other. When it comes to the "other woman" watching as her lover buys drinks for his wife, the control-freak husband all bonhomie with his male acquaintance and back-of-the-hand with his wife, not to mention the build-up of tension between the proprietors, then the mood is a much darker one.
Whisking in and out
with a changing array of hats, jackets, the facial expressions and
postures to match each character as he or she comes to the foreground
are Rebecca Dickson-Black and Matthew Springett. With the
audience at very close quarters, their performances are spotlit in
more senses than one. All their characterisations ring true and
engage the attention, as much for the broader canvas they display as
for its details. It makes for a thought-provoking evening.