REVIEWS : Great boas of today and other beasts

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The Independent Culture
Silver Lining Oldham Coliseum There must be few plays that take the foot-and-mouth epidemic of the late Sixties as their subject. Although the Cheshire plain can hardly be accounted remote, Ken's gruff and forbidding independence - strongly conveyed by Ian Hogg - has made his dairy farm into a fortress. His life is milking, shovelling and coming to table to ask the forbearing Muriel (Rita May) "What's for't?" We feel this tedium rather too directly, though the full implications of the repression on vieware masked by the comedy of John Chambers' affectionately satiric view of his hero.

The disruption of this chilly pastoral comes with the foot-and-mouth. For Ken it is a double visitation, since he must also endure the plague of the outside world just as the emotional life that he has transferred to his doomed beasts is denied him.

The action hovers between gothic threat and female healing. But what must be healed cannot be spoken in this stoically inarticulate setting, so Chambers must rely on our reading between the lines. In fact this is all too easy to do from early on, and theplay proceeds at a ruminative plod towards its surprisingly gentle conclusion.

Jeffrey Wainwright