John Barnshaw
Customs House, South Shields

Scribblers publicity image

Scribblers is the third and last of the new plays by new writers in the Customs House FebFest season and its author, John Barnshaw, is the oldest by around thirty years. It is set in the store room of a local museum where a writers' group meets, surrounded by the impedimenta of all the other grouips which use the same venue, especially the Shields Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (SODS) and their youth group, the Young SODS. And, to be honest, that's a fair example of the humour.

There is a plot of sorts, concerning the relationship between the group's leader Paula (Hazel Temperley) and retired bin man Charlie (Harry Gallagher), although, as in Off Track, last week's offering, the major change in their relationship happens over the interval, with nothing to prepare us for it. There's also a minor plot strand concerning a character (Duke, played by Martin Owen) who only appears for part of the first act.

Esssentially it's a sequence of conversations between the writers' group members, set up for their comic potential, with the intervention of two removal men, Dick (Iain Cunningham) and Rick (Wayne Miller), who keep arriving with more and more (and more and more extravagant) clutter to add to the already crowded room. It's more of an extended sit. com. than a play - in fact, the two acts are a bit like two sit. com. episodes back to back - and as such is undemanding, light-hearted entertainment, so the sentimental ending is quite in keeping.

The cast of nine are well in control of their parts - although there were moments when first-night tensions got the better of one or two cast members and they came in a little too quickly on cues, cutting off others' words, audience's laughs, or both. Director Chris Elphinstone keeps the pace going at a fair old clip. As he must, for there is no light or shade here, no subtlety, no depths of character to be revealed - just one joke followed by another. All he and his cast have to do is keep the audience laughing, and in that they succeeded.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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