Paul Broughton and Michael Starke
Royal Court Liverpool
Royal Court Liverpool

Paul Broughton and Michael Starke

Blokes and sheds. There was a time when any self-respecting man would have had his very own place of refuge, of sanctuary, a place where the male of the species could spend many pleasurable hours alone playing with their lathes. Times change.

Shed is the brainchild of Royal Court regulars Paul Broughton and Michael Starke. The duo’s double-hander takes place in Donny’s (Broughton) rather nifty shed, a bolthole full of mod cons where the host appears to be having a whale of a time.

Richard Foxton’s set though is unlike any shed you’ll likely remember. For this is s grease-free, oil-free zone. It’s the king of sheds, a beach hut with style and panache. Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen would have been proud.

It is within these salubrious surroundings that our host receives a visitation from long-lost pal Davey (Starke), back in town after 25 years spent on the Spanish Costas. What follows is a journey down memory lane that cooks up ratatouille from the stove and skeletons from the closet.

While not an uproariously funny script, there are enough laugh-out-loud moments here and if the script does occasionally dip, Broughton and Starkie can always be relied upon to cover. Indeed the chemistry between these two is arguably this production’s chief strength.

Such good friends are the pair that one often forgets that we are watching a play. It could just as easily be an audience with Broughton and Starke—a scenario that would have worked just as well, if not better, than constructing a fictional drama.

Through interplay which is always warm, at times funny and occasionally even poignant, a tale of past demeanours is slowly revealed. We also hear about a whole range of colourful characters whom our two have loved, loathed and lost.

Characters like Jimmy Curry and Billy are often heard about, but unfortunately never seen. While it is always interesting to hear about these characters, seeing them in action would almost certainly have been even more fascinating, more dramatic. Shed is a fairly static play relying almost entirely upon the story-telling skills of its two protagonists.

Starke and Broughton cleverly use their appeal at the Royal Court, where they have gained something akin to cult status over the years. These two can do no wrong. Indeed, there is a certain reassurance in seeing the duo step forth onto the stage, bearing witness to banter which at times actually feels unscripted, spontaneous.

However, one can’t help but feel that extending the gene pool from time to time might very well pay higher dividends for the Royal Court. Allowing friends to write a play might just work, but strategies don’t get any higher risk than this in theatre land.

This production works largely through goodwill and thanks to an audience who are firmly on-side throughout. Shed is a risk that just about comes off, but boy is it a close-run thing.

Reviewer: David Sedgwick

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