Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

him and Her 

Josh Higgs as Him and Colette Nooney as Her in their up and down, on and off affair of the heart


Highbury Theatre Centre Studio


What a little gem to start off the new year at Highbury bringing a real warmth and sparkle to a dark, wet and windy January night.

Colette Nooney and Josh Higgs are a delight as Him and Her, the first babies born in their Yorkshire village in a generation, Him and Her presumably because this is is North Yorkshire tha’ sees, wi none o’them posh southern ways like names er owt.

We first come across the pair as children in 1994 and we leave them at the end of the evening as adults today, their lives and loves seen in snatches intertwined with the changing life around them.

We are never told the exact location but from what we hear the village is in James Herriot country, around Thirsk, somewhere between the North York Moors and the Dales, the area where writer Charley Miles hails from. Her older sister, incidentally, was the first baby born in their village for 25 years!

Miles paints a backdrop to what is essentially a love story by chronicling the changing face of rural England. There is the problem of dairy farmers, in North Yorksire often working marginal land, faced with farm gate prices for milk that make survival a struggle, of properties being bought up as holiday homes pushing up prices beyond the means of those born and bred there - and bringing little or nothing to the village community.

Add holiday cottages and guest houses springing up and jobs disappearing and the area is changing fast, then there is the gentrification of the local pub, once the centre of village gossip and life, now turned into a gastro pub, a bistro for outsiders with high priced ales – there is even a problem of the graveyard being full with no room left for locals.

Him and Her reflect the world changing around them, Him, loyal to his roots, leaving school as soon as he could – not dropping out “just not going back” - and getting a job in the village, working on Her Uncle Harry’s farm. Farm labourer is not an ambition, but it is a way of life, a way of the village.

Her stays on at school, takes A levels and goes off to University in London – but “I’ll be back in three weeks and then there is Christmas” – the pair are teenage lovers but we all know that the end has begun. Once the family Micra takes Her out of the village she will become an outsider.

On a simple set from director Colin Judge and Malcolm Robertshaw we open with Him and Her as young children, playing horses and mummies and daddies, even discussing the extra bits or lack of them that help to physically distinguish Hims and Hers.

collette and josh 

Her and Him have their moments of happiness

In a series of short scenes we see them through their teen years, the days of mobile libraries and vans selling fish and veg, the hanging around, nothing to do days displaying the streak of rebellion, if only they could find something to rebel against.

Then we find just how deep Him feels about Her when she is talking about going to a club in Scarborough where they let pretty girls in for free – we also discover His mother has left, running off with some foreigner from the Salsa class she went to every Thursday. A bloke from Bradford being seen as foreign in the closed world of the north Yorkshire villages.

Him has come to Her’s to escape the break-up at home. Any fool can see Him and Her are soul mates, made for each other, even a blind man could see they love each other, it’s just that as their lives drift apart they never seem to quite manage to love each other at the same time.

So, we have divergent parallel lives which cross at weddings, funerals but never come together just for each other. Her, sporting a sophistication beyond what the village can offer, living in London, or wherever, with a boyfriend plucked from online dating.

Him a farm labourer, marrying a village girl. Neither relationship will last.

We have rows, resentment, accusations of condescension, pig headedness, Her, now seen as an outsider, making flying visits with her cosmopolitan views, Him seen almost as an exhibit in a museum, a character set in a time that has passed.

Yet it is Her who wants to stop development in the village, keeping its chocolate box character, even though she is merely a visitor, Him, the pragmatist, who sees the village has to evolve to survive.

There is an anger, but what seems to be a seething resentment of each other is perhaps more one of the frustration of Him and Her unable to accept or even understand each other’s life, each other’s points of view, seeing only the differences rather than a life full of similarities, lives carrying a deep romance that never quite seems to fire.

And behind it all is the farm, Harry’s farm where widower Harry’s only child, his son, had died playing in hay bales in the barn.

The farm, and what happens to it when Harry dies, is to be the catalyst driving the final scene when everything we anticipated, even hoped for is snatched away. It’s a moving moment.

Miles cleverly weaves the two strands together, the slow breakdown of a village farming community and a love affair which is slowly strangled by circumstance, never finding the space to blossom.

And speaking of blossom, Him buys a patch of land from Harry, marginal at best, half covered with a spreading stand of blackthorn which he wants to remove and Her wants to keep, perhaps a sign of changing times and lives.

Nooney and Higgs are quite superb. Two handers are not the easiest, there is nowhere to hide and the pair bounce off each other quite beautifully.

This is a love story, or at least an oh so near love story and only works if you believe in the characters, if you really feel for them, and the pair reach out to the audience from the opening lines to the final dramatic scene.

You are willing Him to be a bit more flexible, less belligerent and to take his one chance of real happiness in his arms, and we are imploring Her to reject the trendy online boyfriends and bright lights and finally see what she is in danger of losing.

It is a beautifully acted, moving, lyrical piece, which will make you both laugh and sad, following two lives that could, perhaps even should be one, except they are heading in different directions until it is all too late. To 18-01-20.

Roger Clarke


Note: Although the play does contain some bad language it is in context. 

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