Tales From the Country

Brian Viner, adapted by Nick Warburton
Pentabus Theatre Company
Pleasance Theatre
(2010)

Publicity photo

Leaving the rat race and escaping to the countryside: it's what all we Londoners fantasise about from time to time when the overcrowded tubes and unfriendly faces get too much. But for most us it remains a fantasy; realistically the idea of being woken by a cockerel from the local farm every morning secretly fills us with dread.

However journalist Brian Viner decided to take the plunge and move from Crouch End to the Herefordshire countryside. Pentabus Theatre Company, under the direction of Orla O'Loughlin, has taken Brian Viner's weekly columns for the Independent, bringing to life his pursuit of the rural idyll.

Brian (Matthew Bates), his wife Jane (Sarah Stanley) and their four children (all played by the cheeky Iain Ridley) encounter the various characters that you'd expect to find in a small, quiet village and it turns out that stereotypes do actually exist! Viner's tale is a hilarious account of a family as they struggle to deal with the loss of stylish coffee shops on every street corner and instead have to make do with the one local pub which is mourning the loss of their beloved snooker table.

Set in the local fete, Tales from the Country effortlessly jumps between the past and present, documenting the decision to move, the actual move and the process of acclimatising. Performed in an almost comic strip fashion, it's hard to believe that there are only five cast members as characters pop up everywhere in charming cameos, switching between local farmers, children, obnoxious Australians and even to cats and dogs. Claire Vousen is particularly superb as the well-to-do lady in charge of the annual fete and one half of the couple who are devastated when the sale of their house to the Viner's falls through.

Tales from the Country shows what it's like when those rose tinted spectacles start to cloud up. But life is what you make it and despite the initial teething problems which are to be expected, a move to the countryside allows the Viners to experience and enjoy the simpler things in life such as the sheer unadulterated high of selling all their vegetables at the harvest festival auction. As a Londoner it's very easy to look at life in the countryside in almost patronising fashion. It may not have the non-stop pace and excitement that London offers but each to their own, right?

Tales from the Country might not set a jaded Londoner's heart on fire. As a performance it's more akin to a cosy seat in front of the fire with a nice cup of tea but sometimes that is exactly what you need.

Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan