Going to the Chapel

Mike Akers

Salberg Studio, Salisbury

(2003)

Review by Kevin Catchpole

For his new play Going To The Chapel, premiered in the Salberg Studio at Salisbury Playhouse, Mike Akers draws heavily on his Wiltshire roots.

Thus we are prepared for references to farming and Swindon Town. Not that this North Wilts club cuts much ice in a city preoccupied with its own local team's FA Cup-tie at Hillsborough. Besides, unless I'm much mistaken, talk of "tractor men" stirs the fans of Ipswich, rather than Swindon?

More puzzling are references to cider (Somerset) and a general air of combine harvesters, and the West Country humour of Jethro, an entertainer due, coincidentally, at the adjoining City Hall the next day!

All these we could live with and enjoy. Alas, as the unlikely tale of Roger's marriage to an imaginary bride proceedes, it is difficult to decide whether to laugh or cry. Indeed the opening scene is genuinely amusing, even allowing for some suspiciously insistent first night laughter.

Yet as the action turns to hen parties and strippers, without seriously probing the deeper, disturbing behaviour suggested by Roger's make-believe romance and an elaborate electric booby trap, the amusement evaporates.

A competent cast of five, with no effort made to suggest the missing "sixth" player, is smoothly directed by Caroline Lesley in a positively rustic, farmhouse setting by Kit Surrey which, in spite of the programme, might as well have been Somerset, Cornwall or Southern Ireland for that matter.

As the entire cast enter into proceedings with ghusto, Pippa Hinchley and Josephine Butler catch the eye in contrasting roles of Roger's agoraphobic sister and the worldly-wise Lois. The lesson, I suppose, is if you are out to raise particular ghosts around Halloween, be sure to get your spell right.

This world premiere runs until 29 November.