CHRISTOPHER SMITH Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich


> Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

Zack is a great big softie. Lazy and fond of his food, he has a gift for jollification and a weakness for consoling girls by putting his arms around them and kissing their tears away. Needless to say, that's quite enough to get him into difficulties.

The paradox of Harold Brighouse's warm-hearted North Country comedy is that its hero's kind-heartedness also saves him from himself. Bearded and some-times bespectacled, Jonathan Redding fills the character with bumbling vitality, winning sym-pathy but not seeming too pathetic.

A plot full of swiftly contrasted situations that only just remain this side of likelihood gives chances to another half-dozen characters. Rosemary Morgan is the image of a bossy mother who shows at the end that she really has got her head screwed on.

As her elder son, the one who counts the value of money but can't quite figure out his chances, Mark Mobbs squanders his opportunities of making friends and influencing people. As the pert maid servant who knows everything except her proper place, Jo Clayton uses her extra inches and a sharp tongue to create a memorable role.

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As the two girls who in their various ways are set on changing Zack's life, Rachel Miller and Kiera Long are well differentiated. Both add to first impressions by the way they develop, and the glint of mischief in Kiera's eyes is the making of the final scene.