Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Caution! Trousers / Clearing the Colours

Kerry Hood / James Vollmar
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
(2005)

Caution, Trousers
Clearing the Colours

These were two lunchtime shows, each one 40 minutes long, performed in the SJT restaurant on separate days.

Caution! Trousers is a witty comment on the growing trend of suing for compensation following an injury, and on the impersonal nature of the call centre—impersonal for the staff, as much as for the caller. Call operatives James and Debs are attracted to each other, but the calls keep getting in the way—they've been trained to follow a script for each situation, and can't seem to function without looking up the solution in a huge ring binder. Then one day James has a fall while rushing to put on his trousers, and can't speak without getting his words jumbled up—and the puzzling question dominating the rest of the play is, whose fault is it, and whom should he sue?

The play is in three parts, beginning and ending in the call centre, with a visit to the hospital outpatients in the middle. The call centre scenes are fun; the middle scene in the hospital I felt was a little over-long, and my attention wandered at one point—mainly I think because the dialogue tended to be all on one level, that clever-quirky style of comic language often coupled with the northern accent which does tend to pall after a while. For this reason I think the play might work better as a film, with the addition of purely visual interludes in other locations, and glances at some of the characters who are mentioned but not seen (Debs's dad, James's parents, Dalton's late wife, the invisible receptionist), to give the audience a break from the verbal humour, and to create some different moods.

The restaurant space was used imaginatively, the call centre scenes set daringly in the midst of the audience, and the hospital scene on a raised platform at the front. There were strong performances from Laura Doddington (Debs), Giles New (James), Terence Booth (Dalton) and Becky Hindley (voiceover Receptionist).

Clearing the Colours to my mind had greater depth as a play, and more direct, real emotion -- in addition to the nicely observed humour there was sadness and anger, with issues of loyalty, betrayal, injustice and misunderstanding. It would work well, I think, as a radio play. Designer Pip Leckenby excels with a snooker-style set—two green baize raised areas with large soft padded coloured balls which double as seats for the actors.

The combination of characters is innovative: the young and talented snooker player Danny (Neil Grainger), his kind, paternal manager George (John Branwell) and the clairvoyant seaside landlady Dora (Eileen Battye)—a strong and well-matched cast. George sends the sceptical Danny to see Dora in the belief that she can help him to win his next game; he does win, but there are emotional repercussions which damage the Danny-George relationship, and Danny moves on to a more high-profile manager. The ending is sad, but I felt that the play had taken me somewhere—the colours had been cleared, and a seismic shift had taken place.

Reviewer: Gill Stoker