MEN OF THE WORLD
Hull Truck at the Civic Theatre
As the recession continues to bite, holidays by coach [as advertised in this very paper] have widened their appeal. Four days to Heidelberg, with fireworks, £159. What's not to like ?
Well, plenty, according to the cynical and morose trio who have to do the driving for their OAP passengers.
John Godber's Men of the World, first seen in 2002, follows the winning formula of Bouncers and Teechers. Three actors, loads of characters. It lacks the pace and punch of those early classics, but is still a great show.
The set is a wrap-around map, with assorted suitcases the only furniture. Robert Angell is Stick, who hates the crinkly trips and would happily shoot his punters. Dicken Ashworth is Happy Larry, nearing retirement, a fan of Mario Lanza. And Sarah Parks is Frank, five years in the navy and more than a match for her male colleagues.
But of course they play all the other parts too, beautifully capturing the tics and ailments of old age without ever being cruel or condescending. They're all given nick-names – the posh pair, the middle-aged homeboy, the ailing, nervous couple. Parks especially was wonderfully versatile, her turns ranging from the cheesy cabaret in a Folkestone hotel to Len, one of the “Marx Brothers”, a laconic, asthmatic ex-miner.
Godber's direction is simple, but I admired the way they handled the gear changes, as the holiday atmosphere, the community singing and the caricatures gave way to tragedy – the death of one of the “Beverley Sisters”, a fatal accident on the motorway ...