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The Day that Kevin Came

Andy Barrett
Nottingham Playhouse
(2003)

The Kevin in question is no less than Kevin Costner and Nottinghamshire playwright Andy Barrett's new comedy centres on the curious notion that the Hollywood star is coming to the East Midlands to star in a movie about romantic poet Lord Byron.

Set in the fictional ex-mining community of Eastead, The Day That Kevin Came starts with villagers securing a lottery award to make a tourist information film about their locality. The 15-minute video turns into a possible Hollywood blockbuster when Starlight Productions see it as a vehicle to catapult Costner back at the top of the marketable-celebrities list.

Costner's impending arrival has a devastating effect, with everyone employing selfish means to ensure they get their face on screen or have a major role in the production.

Sounds familiar? Well, it's similar to Stones In His Pockets, although Marie Jones's play opens during a meal break for the extras and explores how relationships develop during the filming. Two actors play all the roles, whereas in Kevin we see how the eight main characters change as they gradually and excruciatingly lose control of "their" film.

But is it credible? Yes, it is in the sense that Hollywood takes all kinds of weird, wonderful and wacky stories and turns them into movies. Coincidentally there are reportedly plans for a major film about Byron, part of which would be filmed at his Nottinghamshire ancestral home Newstead Abbey, and which may star Johnny Depp.

In Kevin you can sense the feeling of pride and elation in the villagers who believe Costner can do for Eastead what he did for Nottingham and Sherwood Forest in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

The problem with Kevin is that it seems too parochial. It's not funny nor innovative enough to have vast appeal. Admittedly it might prove attractive to other communities with a mining heritage, particularly those in the north of the country, but I can't see it striking a familiar chord with people down south.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Ben Roberts who has shaken off Chief Inspector Conway in The Bill, a role he fulfilled for 14 years. As Horace, secretary of Eastead Miners' Welfare Social Club, he feels it is his responsibility to look after the locals and make sure there is something to benefit the young people of the village now that the pit has closed.

Roberts acts effortlessly, so much so that Barrett could have had him in mind when he penned Horace's character. He has some of the best lines too. When he shares a bottle of wine with Hollywood executive Don Winkler he remarks: "Don't tell anyone I'm drinking wine. They'll think I've gone soft!"

Nicholas Gallagher is commendable as forklift truck driver Darren who throws himself totally into the roles he hopes to play in the movie only to be replaced by household names. And Robin Bowerman is a wonderfully nerdy Terry who earnestly believes he can make the transition from filming wedding videos to directing a multi-million dollar Hollywood motion picture.

Kevin occasionally hits the spot, with Horace proclaiming: "The only people who don't know what's going on are the police" and Mary, who sees the movie as her way of bettering herself, declaring: "Nobody moves from Eastead unless they're convicted." There are neat touches with video footage showing location filming and atmospheric music from Kirkby Colliery Welfare Band.

But while Giles Croft's production lacks nothing in effort, sometimes the accents, both American and Nottinghamshire, aren't quite there. And the script doesn't always drive the action along. You're not dying to know what happens next.

It's a pleasant enough evening, but not an unforgettable one.

"The Day That Kevin Came" runs until June 21st

Reviewer: Steve Orme