Theatre: A desirable property

Review: PULLIN' THE WOOL, SHERMAN THEATRE, CARDIFF
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The Independent Culture
AN ENGLISH theatre-goer might imagine that a Welsh play called Pullin' the Wool would be about sheep. Well, you can abandon ideas about hilarious ovine mishaps. The wool in question is being pulled vigorously over the eyes of potential house-buyers.

A play riddled with duplicity and rising damp, this joint production between the Sherman Theatre and Swansea Grand Theatre is a convoluted concoction of snappy stereotypes all looking out for Number One in the legalised anarchy of the housing market. It is also very funny.

Soft suburbanites Martyn and Gail are selling their house to working- class toughs Ray and Sheila, who in turn plan to sell their house to ex- con Dave and his girlfriend Di. As is the nature of the house-buying chain, Martyn and Gail have simultaneously exchanged contracts to buy the house belonging to Denise and her henpecked husband Barrie.

When the next link in the chain collapses, Denise and Barrie face having to move into rented accommodation, unless they can persuade Martyn and Gail to pull out of the contract. On the evening when Ray and Sheila come round to con Martyn into knocking pounds 10,000 off the asking price with the aid of a dodgy survey, Denise and Barrie decide to do everything in their power to put Ray and Sheila off buying - starting with dismantling the boiler.

The author, Frank Vickery, has a lot of fun playing with time. The story adroitly switches to and fro between two different evenings, often running in parallel. With its use of non-linear time and a split set showing two living-rooms simultaneously, Pullin' the Wool is unavoidably reminiscent of Ayckbourn.

In addition to this dazzling display of ingenuity, Vickery surpasses most other comic writers in the sophistication of the interweave between gags and plot. While many playwrights deploy a roller-coaster plot interspersed with big laugh points, the joy of Vickery's writing is that it is precisely those big laughs which expand like ripples to move the story on.

In doubling the parts of Deniseand Di - the ash-blonde jailbird's moll - Helen Griffin impresses with her versatility.

With bands such as the Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia dominating the charts - and the sound-track of this production - South Wales appears to be enjoying the sort of cultural boom which has boosted areas like Scotland and Manchester in recent years. Pullin' the Wool demonstrates that the region has the theatrical writing and acting talent to match.

Until 17 October (01222-230451)

Toby O'Connor Morse

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