Funny how things go, eh? Call it what you will – coincidence, chance, a divine hand – but sometimes you feel that if you could only listen harder you would hear the tick and whirr of cogs that make up the workings of the universe and maybe understand its purpose better.
Turning straight to the review pages of one of our local papers, I heard the crunch of a poor cosmic gear change and I stalled.
I stared aghast, with the same sick dismay I experience on discovering sultanas in a carrot cake. Because at first glance it appeared that the arts and entertainment correspondent had had a change of heart; that instead of regurgitating the usual sticky morass of semi-digested plotting, he had actually focused his mind and reviewed.
Arses, I thought. My planetary alignments were trining all wrong.
It wasn’t part of my game plan to set up in competition with somebody competent, for God’s sake. What would be the point of that? No, I had imagined that such was the dearth of theatre critics in these parts that my smug, all-knowing comments would be pounced on with delight by an audience starved of opinion; its very desperation would blind it to my blagging. Hell, I needed the local critic to be crap, in the same way you need a fat friend to stand next to when you’re holding water.
And then I noticed the byline: Robert Wilkinson. Bob. The same Bob for whom I attended a read-through last Tuesday night of his first full-length stage play, ‘Human Interest Stories’.
Let’s be honest, if you can turn out 100 pages of quick-fire dialogue driving a plot commentating on the ethics of phone-tapping and religious fundamentalism – but with jokes! – well, hey. A couple of hundred words on a youth theatre production would be a sneeze.
I breathed more easily. I wasn’t dealing with the usual reviewer, Not Bob. Not Bob must be on holiday, having some time out from not reviewing.
And then, in a further act of serendipity forcing me to put on my ‘WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?’ face, another bus turned up at the same time. Or to be more precise, another Bob.
For Bob Noble – musician, raconteur, and basically the most success the Borders has had in cloning Leslie Phillips to date – has also birthed a play: ‘Eyeload IV – A Play for Radio’.
The above production was staged by The Duns Players last Sunday at the Duns Volunteer Hall as the first half of a joint fundraising evening with The Duns & District Amateur Operatic Society. The second half of the evening was given over to a spirited DDAOS show tune sing-a-long.
Radio plays are extremely in vogue at the moment, and I should know as lately I’ve been involved with writing/performing for The Berwick Broadcasting Corporation at The Maltings Theatre, whose own Miles Gregory has in the past guest directed the incredibly successful Fitzrovia Radio Hour.
The first thing that struck me, then, was that ‘Eyeload IV’ was not a play for radio, and that by merely having script in hand did not make it so. For instance, the cast didn’t create any sound effects themselves, a great shame as this is an easy way of bringing added-value humour to the script (an audience loves seeing what noises can be produced using a cabbage or wet sock). Also, while there were a few cue cards held up to encourage audience participation, more often or not these weren’t remembered until too late.
I won’t detail the plot – you’ll just have to wait for Not Bob to get back for that sort of thing; instead I’ll just tell you how ‘Eyeload IV’ was an amusing one-act play that knew its audience intimately. Much of the humour came from Bob astutely writing the play in Borders dialect, missing no opportunity to get a gag in while making plenty of local references.
It was a play that felt personal, recognisable. No, it won’t set the world of theatre alight but that wasn’t the point. New writing doesn’t always have to challenge. This was a local play written by a local man for a local audience that loved it.
Ding dong, Bob. Job done.
And then would you believe it? Another bus pulled alongside and off got an actress interested in collaborating on a writing project for TV.
Only she wasn’t called Bob… make of that what you will.