Love on the Links

Jon Glover and Edward Taylor
Salisbury Playhouse
Salisbury Playhouse

Jenna Boyd and Michael Fenton Stevens Credit: Robert Workman
Tim Frances, Rob Witcomb and Tiffany Graves Credit: Robert Workman

Golf and romance—you don’t automatically connect the two, do you? But Jon Glover and Edward Taylor have taken P G Wodehouse’s golfing stories and moulded them into a highly entertaining piece of theatre while, at the same time, managing to incorporate a convincing love interest in what would normally seem to be a rather barren romantic landscape.

We’re in the members’ bar of the Wood Hills Golf Club. There’s the sound of children playing as it’s family day at the club. They won’t be here long, though, and they’re not loud enough to disturb the sleep of the Oldest Member (Michael Fenton Stevens), whose main aim in life seems to be to imbibe as much White Horse Whisky and Malvern Water as he can persuade other members of the club to buy for him.

And so we meet them, the other members, drifting in gradually in search of company and, perhaps, a drink or two. We’re sad about charismatic Jack Ramage (Adam Jackson-Smith) pining over the delightful but, from our point of view, strangely elusive, aspiring novelist Daphne Cartwright. We will make her acquaintance at some point, won’t we? They will get together in the end, surely. We shall see.

There’s a lot of golf, of course, with imaginary balls being driven frequently and expertly into the far reaches of the auditorium and we can’t help wondering for a second or two if it might be acceptable, or just silly, to applaud their expertise.

But whatever their level of attainment, golf is never going to stir our emotions like human passion. And isn’t this what the play’s mostly about? I mean, the first word of the title’s a bit of a giveaway, isn’t it?

But isn’t golf mainly a one-sex sport? Not like tennis. I mean, there’s no provision for mixed doubles in national golf matches, is there? Or have I got that wrong?

So how are the lovely girls, Lily (Jenna Boyd) and Gloria (Tiffany Graves) to become involved? The answer lies in the cleverly devised series of little plays within the main structure of the piece in which we follow them—along with Asser (David Shelley) and Turnbull (Rob Whitcomb)—through many of the emotionally demanding, though often extremely funny, situations which can occur when one of the couple is inextricably involved in his (or her) favourite pastime.

Of course, you’ve got to have at least one sensible character to highlight the silliness of the rest. Fitt (Tim Frances), the club’s cynical barman, is perfect for this. I mean, he’s viewing the members through our eyes, isn’t he? And even provides the narrative with a wonderful musical accompaniment.

So what was Woodhouse’s actual relationship with the sport? Well at the age of 92 Woodhouse wrote, "if only I had taken up golf earlier and devoted my whole time to it instead of fooling around writing stories..."

I think we’re all profoundly glad he didn’t.

And as that gleaming new, bright red MG sports car is driven slowly across the stage at the end of the play, the future looks unquestionably bright and full of hope. Love and golf will surely triumph, won’t they? The sun is shining on the fairway.

The year is 1938.

What could possibly go wrong?

Reviewer: Anne Hill

Are you sure?