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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, Britain’s largest Immigration Removal Centre  

Thanks to Channel 4 we now see just how appallingly Yarl’s Wood detention centre shames Britain

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
 

If I were Prime Minister: I’d ensure ministers took mental health in the armed forces as seriously as they take physical wounds

James Jones
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor