Theatre Review: Home alone?

A Different Way Home

Oldham Coliseum

Annie & Fanny from Bolton to Rome

Bolton Octagon

There are full houses in Oldham to celebrate 60 years of the Rep, now named the Coliseum. Off and on, Kenneth Alan Taylor has been actor, director and now Chief Executive for more than half that time, and here he directs Roy Barraclough, who has come back up the hill from Coronation Street to the stage he first trod in 1966.

Familiarity can breed nostalgia, and Jimmie Chinn's new play, , at first trades in both. Leslie is a 60-ish bachelor who has lived all his life in the terraced house precisely realised by designer Celia Perkins as having been freeze-dried 30 or so years ago. We are the rare visitor he's glad he bumped into, and in the course of a chat detailing his shopping routes and preferences in biscuits, we gather his side of the family life focused on the Christmas Eve his mother died. Apparently mild and unassuming, anxious never to be "in the way", Leslie seems pathetic but modestly philosophical, save for the animus towards his sister Maureen, neglectful and snobbish since she took a Jewish husband.

In the second half, Barraclough transvests into Maureen, and, teaspoon by teaspoon, the cosiness of this gas-fire familiarity chills as Maureen lets slip her own long sense of a rejection that became outright, if still never properly spoken, upon her marriage. What have appeared comic, sad, but harmless lives, are seen to have been blighted by suppressed resentment and destructive fears.

Chinn's writing is good at letting the gall seep in guarded droplets from between the appearances his characters keep up, not least for themselves. None the less, and despite Roy Barraclough's virtuosity, the play does not escape the limitations of the talking-head format. Rather than their confidant, I would rather have been the spectator of Leslie and Maureen's interaction.

Arriving from Bolton, Annie Briggs's considered opinion of Rome is that "a lot of thought's gone into it". A substantial body, Annie is big on opinions, and on considering, especially in summer when she goes considering across Europe on a two-week coach tour. In Sue Cleaver's portrayal, she's a wonderful type, stitched into Lancashire, until the Horwich Tabernacle pronounces kingdom come, yet curious and dauntless in foreign fields. So, too, is her good companion Fanny, played by Maggie Norris as a predatory pullet, in aspect, at least, if no longer, alas, in age. There's nowt wrong with being a spinster - in Bolton. But when in Monte Carlo, Rapallo or Rome, you are looking to "come over all unnecessary".

Such are the key characters of Bill Naughton's Annie and Fanny from Bolton to Rome, the play whose premiere opened the Bolton Octagon just 30 years ago. Played in celebratory mood by a cast in which Nicola Wheeler also stands out, it is an affectionate comedy rich in self-satire, harmless sentimentality and a soupcon of self-satisfaction. It may be charter flights to Orlando now, but the nostalgia trip was enjoyably recognised by a full house last Thursday, including my companion, who herself had made Annie and Fanny's trip - in reverse.

`' to 21 Feb (0161-624 2829). `Annie & Fanny' to 14 Feb (01204 520661)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us