Saturday night fervour

attle of a simple man poster

Rattle of a simple man

Lichfield Garrick Studio

****

WHEN a bloke of 35, give or take a few years, can’t even say bottom to a prostitute in her boudoir without blushing and fudging around the issue, then you can take it this isn’t likely to end . . . horizontally.

Percival, Percy to his friends, who all seem to be male and precious few, is a Nothern lad who still lives with his mum and probably embraced middle age in his teens.

His moral code of what cannot be done and said in the presence of a lady, even a lady of the night, runs to several volumes while what is permissible in Percy's mind probably doesn’t even fill a page, and as for what he has done or said with a lady, a lady of any time of day or night, as an actual lady, would probably not even make a sentence.

Percy is a sexual, social and emotional virgin so when he ends up with a prostitute who starts to get her kit off as soon as the pair enter her flat, he finds himself facing both nightmare and fantasy bundled together in a revealing slip.

How he got into his current predicamentis a bit of a mystery, a bit hazy, but he remembers beer and his mate Ginger was involved somewhere along the line. Ginger was his big mate in a group of lads from Manchester down to London for a football match and they had been celebrating, or rather just getting legless on Saturday night. There had been a drinking club and a bet somewhere along the way, so here he was. The virgin and the sex machine.

Not that he admits his inexperience about . . . it . . . and girls; after all he tells us he has had plenty of them. There is little conviction in his bravado though and eventually he admits: ”I know a lot of girls . . . well no, a lots of girls know me.”

So while the trousered half of the audience indulge in idle fantasy there is Percy uncomfortably tap dancing around the merest hint of sex with an attractive woman - a staunch bachelor and resolute virgin.

The prostitute, Cyrenne, is as upmarket as they come; daughter of a brigadier with a surgeon brother . . . and yet no real explanation of how she has arrived at her chosen profession, if indeed she chose it. The tall tales are all a little too good to be true, and don’t quite tally but with a handy bed and a promise, even a paid for one, no one is going to delve too deeply.

LONELY PEOPLE

The realty is we have two very lonely people living a lie not so much to deceive others but to hide themselves from the truth.

Stourbridge born Alan Birch, well known in the Midlands as Inspector Drake, gives a touching performance as the socially clumsy, uncomfortable, worldly unwise Percy with a Northern accent that never falters all evening.

You can feel his embarrassment, fear, frustration, desires, discomfort and every emotion known particularly to man coursing through his mind and loins while, throughout it all, his trousers remain firmly in place.

Catherine Manford is the cause of his discomfort; and in the small confines of the Garrick studio, manages to attract the undivided attention of not only Percy but most of the men in the audience.

She takes Cyrenne out of the tart with a heart territory to make her a real person, someone we can care about and have feelings for beyond her obvious sensual charms. There are holes a mile wide in her story of wealth and family but these only serve to intrigue rather than condemn her as a liar.

When angry brother Ricard, played by Paolo Allen, arrives we start to see the real Cyrenne and feel for her even more.

Allen, incidentally is reprising the role he first played in 1987 in what was the first production of Opus Theatre Company. In that inaugural performance the director of this play, Gerry Hinks, played Percy and the company’s treasurer and wardrobe mistress was Cyrenne.

Ricard is a scene setter, throwing out Percy then knocking down the walls so carefully built by his sister who is forced into not only confronting her past but revealing more than even Ricard knew.

Left alone and in tears, that could have been the end, until Percy returns, having forgotten his rattle and as he sobers up, and all the romancing, a good Northern word, falls apart as reality comes home to roost, the pair, with all their barricades breached start to find they actually have feelings for each other. What was a business arrangement has slowly grown into a real relationship.

Shrewsbury born Charles Dyer's play was first performed in 1962 and has to be taken in that context;  £30 for a week’s holiday in Morecambe and a fiver for a night with a prostitute – not that I would know the going rate mind you – seems awfully out of date and it is a tribute to both the writing and Hink’s directing that it is a play of its time rather than just dated.

Percy’s puritanical streak would have long been wiped out, if it had ever been given life, had he been around these days but before the sexual revolution of the 60s there were still those who had not moved on much beyond stockings on piano legs and had an innocence of all things carnal strong enough to threaten the continuation of the human race.

It may seem old fashioned now but seen in the perspective its own time it is a touching and at times very funny tale of lonely people on opposite sides of a sexual divide – and an enjoyable evening’s entertainment. To 18-10-14

Roger Clarke

16-10-14

The tour continue with:

Thur 23 Oct Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock, 01543 578762, http://www.wlct.org/cannock/theatre/,

Sat 1 November, Moreton Village Hall, Newport, Shropshire.

The play will tour again in spring 2015. 

Contents page Lichfield Garrick  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre