Theatre / The 'No Boys' Cricket Club Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London

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The Independent Culture
Cricket lover Abigail Sandford (Dona Croll) used to be a demon at the crease. Bowl any delivery at her and - whack - the ball was over the boundary. That was back in the good old days when, as a schoolgirl in Jamaica, she helped to create the "No Boys" Cricket Club. Fatherly pressure squashed that first flower of independence. Now living in London, it's a tired, disappointed and older Abigail whom we first meet. Baited by her neighbour, bullied by her son, all she has for comfort are those old Caribbean memories - until, that is, her long lost cricket pal, Masie (Anni Domingo) life hardened and virago-like, pays her a surprise visit.

The brash young playwright Roy Williams urges a drastic safety measure for girls likely to fall hard in the sex war: no boys, they're more trouble than they're worth. But this is not to undervalue the reach of an ambitious piece of writing in which our two embittered heroines journey into their psyches and back to their childhood to watch - and be confronted by - their younger selves.

Promising newcomer Indhu Rubasingham directs with some assurance, although a more experienced director could have handled Anni Domingo better and so prevented the type of declamatory acting (the flashing eyes and overplayed patois) that so often bedevils black productions. But don't let that put you off. Once she's settled, Domingo's a treat and you will wonder at the work of the designers Chris Davey and Rosa Maggiora who, for the introspection scenes, bring the magic of cinema to theatre.

As Abigail, the very talented Dona Croll is well supported by a hardworking cast and she puts in a fine comic performance, moving from cowed widow to angry mother with a baseball bat. But Williams saves some of his best lines for the passages of self-communion, and you're tickled when the young Abi, played by Ashley Miller, learns that she's grown to love and marry Teddy Carter. A feminist full toss.

n To 22 June. Booking: 0181-534 0310

ROY BARTHOLOMEW

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