Favourites could disguise bare moments

Having a Ball @ Theatre Royal, Norwich

Having a Ball @ Theatre Royal, Norwich

By JOHN LAWSON

The stage was stacked with favourites from the box – but everything else about Alan Bleasdale's comedy had low-budget stamped all over it.

Alan Bleasdale? The Alan Bleasdale who brought us such dramatic power and glory as Boys from the Blackstuff and GBH which cleaned up the awards on television. Sad but true – for this Alan Bleasdale relied for his greatest laughs on the shock value of having a man prancing naked on stage for close on half an hour.

Originally produced in 1981, I fear that this is one revival that should have remained firmly in the depths of his back catalogue.

The more cerebral observer would perhaps suggest that this tale of three men awaiting a vasectomy was an Everyman tale of the breaking down of barriers between the self-made man, the wide boy and the lifelong loveable loser.

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That the loser's nakedness is the physical demonstration of the bearing of his soul.

But much of his soul-bearing was lost amid the shrieks of the audience responding to his nakedness alone.

Naturally, loser (Colin Campbell) and wronged wife (Sara Crowe) triumph as the past catches up with environmentally-corrupt husband (Robert Duncan) and wide-boy Matt Andrews.

It's not that individual performances were below standard – there were nice moments.

I particularly enjoyed the performance of Sarah Berger as surgeon of a hospital funded by a production line of plastic surgery, but with none of the equipment to save a life – a Bleasdale rewrite commentating on today's health industry.

Most of all there was veteran Michael Medwin, in a delightful cameo as septuagenarian biker George.

Yet for all its untaxing entertainment this was a piece of theatre that ultimately failed to rise to the occasion.

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