Brian Viner: As affectionate laughter rippled through the audience, we could relax

Share
Related Topics

The world premiere of Tales of the Country – which, as I think I might have mentioned before, is a play based on the book inspired by my columns about moving out of London to rural Herefordshire – took place at the Severn Theatre in Shrewsbury last Thursday.

To get there in good time, Jane, the children and I took the 17.08 Arriva Trains Wales service from Leominster – which might not be how Agatha Christie arrived at the world premiere of The Mousetrap (just to pluck a random example of another stage adaptation of a book), but I bet she didn't enjoy her evening half as much as we enjoyed ours.

Admittedly, Shrewsbury is not the West End, and Arriva Trains Wales is definitely not to be confused with a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantom; but then Tales of the Country isn't The Mousetrap. Mind you, I'm certain we've had more mice running amok in our house than Dame Agatha ever had in hers.

We were joined on the 17.08 by a gang of friends, and to make an occasion of it, took several bottles of champagne. Our mate Patrick had undertaken to provide nibbles, and took his duties very seriously, half-emptying the Marks & Spencer food hall in Hereford.

So, as there were too many of us to sit round the few tables that Arriva Trains Wales provide, I had to walk up and down the aisle, like a five-star trolley service, dispensing drinks, prawns, cocktail sausages and those hefty pieces of M&S sushi – only one of which rolled off my plastic tray and into the lap of a woman from Bridgend.

A party on a train brings out the best in people, as long as you're inclusive about it. The woman from Bridgend had a sausage, and a man from Penarth – who happened to be sitting at a table with me, my friend Stewart the local chicken farmer, and Stewart's wife Susie – had some crisps and champagne. I told him all about the play, and he told me all about the book he's writing, a biography of John Venn, the 19th-century inventor of the Venn diagram.

For a while it was like a Radio 4 arts programme at our table, at least until Stewart told us his latest politically incorrect joke, about a bald man who goes into a pub with a parrot on his shoulder.

The journey was such good fun that some of us were actually quite disappointed when we arrived at Shrewsbury, but also a little bit excited, while some were more excited than disappointed, and others were wholly excited – the sort of situation that would have driven John Venn to his drawing-board.

Anyway, we walked to the theatre from the station in glorious late-afternoon sunshine, and had dinner in the Theatre Severn's excellent restaurant, before it was finally time for curtains up.

I'd read the script and been to a couple of auditions, and Jane and I had met the final cast, but we hadn't been to any rehearsals, and really didn't have a clue what to expect. In truth, we were apprehensive. At least my book is my own account of our life in the country, whereas the script is the interpretation of Nick Warburton – to be sure a hugely experienced playwright, but I had wondered whether the self-deprecating tone of the book might, on stage, look like that of a man with plenty to be self-deprecating about.

However, as affectionate laughter rippled across the audience we began to relax; after just a few minutes it was clear that Nick and everyone at Pentabus had done a fantastic job, and the cast are superb. The company's visionary artistic director, Orla, received almost 600 CVs when she advertised the auditions, which makes me shudder for young people – including my own daughter, Eleanor – wondering whether to pursue an acting career. The profession has never been more competitive. But choosing a company of five from 600 hopefuls at least means that you end up with some class acts.

Even class acts, though, need classy audiences. Since last Thursday the play has moved into village halls, where I'm told it has been wonderfully received. They seem to love a scene about poultry-fancying, in particular. But this is the country. How will the chickens go down at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington? That's my new concern. Metropolitan readers can find out, let me insouciantly add, between May 11 and May 16.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes