Set in rural England, this pale ale drenched parable explores village life juxtaposed with urban sprawl. Topical issues of sexual impropriety, love lost, love rediscovered and fiddling finances are interspersed with song and slapstick scenes. A homely hybrid of The Archers and the Vicar of Dibley, there is a pantomime-esque quality to the humour, with a script which is sluggish in parts.
A plethora of pick me up humour, mirth and celebration of connection.
Initially, a dismayed Aileen displays a ‘County Council Planning Notice’. Subsequently, the core cast of seven enter the village pub and this opening scene is quite chaotic as the audience struggle to keep up with the tired and overacted dialogue. Yummy mummies, new world wine and the village newsletter overshadow some of the topics the show is attempting to open up to exploration. This young cast are earnestly energetic, giving great performances of very distinct characters. Some of the performance is over acted, though this is clearly intentional - it did grate a bit at times though, as the repeated dialogue and ‘oooooohhhhhh nooooooo’ slapstick hyperbole felt at odds with the serious issues at hand. A happy medium would have provided the comedic interludes I imagine director Molly Farley was looking for.
The script was inconsistent and needs to be tightened in places, though writer Becky Pick shows flashes of brilliance with the concept. It felt like there were potential issues which were overshadowed in favour of the comedy element to the show, and although billed as musical theatre, there was only one song. I would have liked to have explored more about the villagers’ response to Helen selling off land to the incoming developers, a storyline which fell flat early on in the piece. Similarly, the foray into non-monogamy for Bill and Deborah masked huge relationship issues which appeared solved by his purchase of a carribean cruise. The relationship dynamics between Aileen and Barbara were interesting, and symptomatic of a small village mentality – sexualising the relationship and falling back on stereotypes, which I assume was intentional on the part of Becky Pick.
Small holes in the script can be forgiven, as on the surface this was an enjoyable piece of theatre which held my attention and garnered lots of laughs from the audience. The piece, by Coast to Coast theatre, was crowdfunded to be brought to the Fringe, and the cast were exuberant in their portrayal. Highlights were Bill, the manic conspiracy theorist played by Alex Grauwiler, who at times was annoying but at others purely brilliant as his character descended into mania as the developers encroached on his land. The highlight for me was the portrayal of Judy, played by Nancy Melia – she shone on stage, and will go far. The cast were clearly enjoying their performance, which was lovely to see. It also served to save Alexandra Hayes as she slipped from her character of Barbara as she descended into chaotic giggles to the extent that she could barely get her lines out. Her performance up to that point had been impeccably strong.
Nowt As Queer As Folk doesn't present ground breaking storylines or overwhelm us with musical ingenuity. However it does provide an hour of enjoyable theatre in which we have a glimpse of life in small town England, with a plethora of pick me up humour, mirth and celebration of connection.