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Watermill - Gigolo

25th to 29th March 2003, and on tour.

This was from The Times.

Three stars
After playing this week at the Watermill, Ade Morris’s merrily written, brightly acted comedy sets off on a six-week tour of the village halls and small theatres of the Thames Valley, punctuated by a few trips further afield to larger houses. Morris’s very different, infinitely touching I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls set off from the Watermill last year on a similar tour, and there have been earlier productions of his going back five years.

I’m sorry I missed Bullets and Beetroot Lips, a title that could fit farce or tragedy — or farcical tragedy, for that matter, which is the genre that Gigolo touches from time to time, whenever mournful Mike’s idiotic attempts at topping himself are interrupted by his returning best friend.

Mike, played with lithe absurdity by Glyn Dilly, is described at one point as mardy, a neat dialect term for someone wallowing in their misery, though not one much heard down South. Mike, best friend Paul and Sherry, the nurse he’s obsessed with, live in the Potteries, but not even northern soul, cult music of the region, blaring from his rented stereo, can cheer him when Sherry decides to look for someone keener to give her a baby. The play consists of the schemes his friends devise to make Mike look on the brighter side of Life After Sherry.

Paul is gay, though able to enjoy a night with Sherry, and when he dresses in women’s clothes it’s for fun. But when Mike prowls around his grotty room in Sherry’s abandoned undies he claims it is so as to keep some contact with her. I’m pretty dubious about this defence — and Morris is certainly not beyond abandoning psychology for a gag — but there is undeniable comedy at the sight of Dilly in black slip and wig, bashing sleeping tablets to powder with the high heel of his shoe.

Morris writes good jokes, and distributes them fairly between his three actors, though it is Dilly’s feel for the comedy of complaint that energises the action.

Toni Midlane’s Sherry is good with the world-weariness, Andrew Cryer likewise with Paul’s fake hauteur, and Morris himself directs with tremendous crispness. The sharp entries through the two back doors have the vigour of cartoon shots.

The plot starts to follow a formula towards the end, with everyone’s hearts turning out to be in the right place after all, but Morris steers clear of a sentimental ending, and even if he hadn’t, one could forgive him because of the humour and his lovingly jaundiced nostalgia for Stoke-on-Trent.

Nothing mardy about him.


This is from the Telegraph.

All dressed up...

The beautiful Watermill Theatre in Newbury has long been the most enchanting theatre in Britain. In recent years, it has also become one of the very best, right up near the top of the premier league of British regional theatres.

Jill Fraser, its long-serving artistic director, has a keen eye for talent and establishes long, rewarding relationships with those she works with. Edward Hall cut his directorial teeth here, before moving on to the RSC and the West End, recently returning to the Watermill with an enchanting all-male production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. John Doyle's imaginative, stripped-down versions of classic musicals, with the casts doubling as actors and musicians, have been among the most outstanding ensemble productions of recent years, and the Watermill's summer shows, with the audience promenading in the theatre's beautiful grounds, are magical. With an excellent restaurant, delightful bar and exceptionally friendly staff, this is a paradisal theatre positively humming with invention and vitality.

The playwright Ade Morris is another of the theatre's discoveries - he's been working with the Watermill for the past five years - and in Gigolo he has come up with a cracking new comedy that provides an ideal antidote to these troubled times. It's only on at the theatre itself until tomorrow, but Morris's own production then embarks on a six-week tour of one-night stands in village halls. The Watermill takes its duties to the community seriously.

The play's action is set in Morris's native Stoke-on-Trent, depicted - and I fear for Morris's safety should he revisit his home city - as a depressing hell-hole "that time and hope forgot".

It concerns three friends, in their late thirties, and all ageing aficionados of the Northern Soul scene. Mike is a bald, glum, permanently out-of-work actor; Sherry is his former girlfriend, a nurse who hears the ticking of the biological clock and is desperate to get pregnant. And then there is gay Paul, who has just lost his job in a greasy spoon, and has recently discovered the joys of transvestism. But then Mike is no slouch in the cross-dressing department either. In his depression, he spends much of his time wearing Sherry's underwear while attempting - with hilarious incompetence - to kill himself.

To rescue Mike from his suicidal misery, and to earn some much needed cash, Paul suggests that they should set up in business together as a male escort agency called Charmers. But matters become decidedly tricky when it is Sherry who turns up as their first client.

Morris's play is blessed with a great ear for comic dialogue, some lovely running gags and excellent twists in the plot. Gigolo is consistently laugh-out-loud funny, and, though its material is near the knuckle, the warmth of the writing, and the dramatist's palpable affection for his oddball characters, ensures that it is never gratuitously offensive. Only in the final scene, when the loose ends are somewhat perfunctorily tied up, does this cherishable comedy about friendship seem glibly mechanical rather than truly endearing.

The three-strong cast offer great value. Glyn Dilley is magnificently lugubrious as Mike, never more so than when he somehow manages to poison his beloved goldfish, Olivier, rather than himself. Andrew Cryer provides the comic motor as the effervescent, riotously camp Paul, and looks a treat in a frock to boot, while Toni Midlane is both touching and savvily tough as Sherry. The village halls of Berkshire are in for a treat.


This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Chancers are up against the odds

Gigolo, at The Watermill Theatre, from Tuesday, March 25 to Saturday, March 29, then touring to villages

With life at the moment up to its ears in worry, unspoken fears and sadness, it was a tonic to have two hours of merriment at the Watermill last Friday.

From the moment that Sherry (Toni Midlane) appeared in her underpinnings, berating boyfriend Mike (Glynn Dilley) for his inadequacies between the sheets, it is obvious that Ade Morris' latest offering has little in common with his moving I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls.

The ineffectual Mike lives with his goldfish, Olivier. He is one of Nature's losers, a would-be actor who ekes out a scruffy existence with a succession of short-lived jobs. Girlfriend Sherry, a nurse, is fed up with being the 'Angel of Death' and wants a baby - an ambition she's pretty certain isn't likely to come to fruition with Mike.

She walks out and seeks a sympathetic ear from their joint friend Paul, who describes himself as 'sexually beige with the odd tassel' - you get the picture.

It doesn't help that they all live in Stoke on Trent, 'the city where chips come two ways - battered, and on the crockery'. (Oh Ade, you'll never be able to visit the Potteries again.)

Deserted, Mike has several goes at committing suicide, but the poor lad can't even get that right and the only thing that expires is Olivier. Trying to help both friends, Paul (a hilarious performance from Andrew Cryer) nobly agrees to forget his usual sexual proclivities and suggests the two men set up 'Charmers', a male escort agency to ease the cash flow. Does it work? What, with these two?

Meanwhile Sherry has discovered she is pregnant, and, what do you know, it's Mike's baby, though she did have a one night stand with Paul, unlikely as that may seem.

Anyone whose life is complicated will come away cheered by this fast-moving, zippy delight of a play, with three class actors in charge of the fun.

The villages it tours are in for a lorra lorra laughs and writer/director Ade Morris, in changing courses, has proved he can win either way.