Humble Boy

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich


Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

Odd things happen in an English country garden. Roses are blooming, and apples hang and sometimes drop from the bough, but in Charlotte Jones's Humble Boy emotions build up and characters contrive somehow to be both larger than life and yet very life-like.

Director Carole Lovett has gathered a cast that is strong in almost everything except the generation gap.

That, though, is the basis to a lot of what happens and most of what is thought.

It is a pity that age differences do not come across so well in appearances and body language as they might. Perhaps we should congratulate some of the elder members of the Sewell Barn Company on remaining so spry and energetic.

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Unhappy Felix appears first in a cricket sweater, next in a splendidly patterned sleeveless slip-over, then in half-mast trousers. Saying that sums him up would be a bit unfair because Robert Little gives him a richly detailed character, a stuttering amalgam of comedy and tragedy, at the crossroads between childishness and intellectual brilliance.

Roistering and swaggering, John Dane gets George's character right to a T. His rough diamond sets off the newly refurbished and rather brittle charm of Flora, played with just the right touch of slightly bogus elegancy by Elizabeth Dane.

Add three well-judged smaller roles and a dish of cold Spanish soup with some unorthodox ingredients and you end up with a plot that cuts the mustard in a distinctly odd way.

This tale of birds and bees, half figuratively and half in reality, reaches its own rather peculiar happy ending, though no one really can be said to earn it.

It's just a matter of nature reasserting itself.

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