Ordinary Lads, By Paul Ferguson

Friday, 29 January, 2010

Celebrating the friendship of young men

London – Etcetera Theatre – 28 – 31 Jan 2010 – 7.30 (1.15)

Paul Ferguson’s Ordinary Lads is a gentle celebration of the friendship of young men and the all too prevalent follies of youth. It is a comedy, stretched to the edge of fantasy sometimes in terms of plot, in which one of a number of (all male and single) friends gets into a scrape, and the others combine to attempt to extricate him from the mess he finds himself in. They don’t quite say ‘all for one and one for all,’ but there are moments when the script – quite a funny one at times – comes preciously close.

The writing is clearly lovingly created, and the actors charged with animating these characters (obviously drawn from life, and acknowledged as such by the writer) do a pretty good job. The lovable but hopeless Bones and the streetwise Jack the Lad, Dibbs, are probably the most successful, but Nico Lennon has an interesting night as (successively) the ruthless loan shark, the local ganja dealer and a car delivery driver.

Direction is by Jake Hendriks, who does manage that most momentous of challenges, keeping an audience (pretty much) interested in a set (Olivia Altaras is the set designer) that is dominated by a sofa. He also manages to bring out the various levels of the humour in the script – some semi-mime, verbal sparring, knockabout slapstick – with a good degree of flair.

The action takes place in the living room of a flat, where some of the ordinary lads of the title live. The production starts quite slowly and takes a little while to get going, but once the characters are established, the play moves along at a pretty good pace, with some genuinely funny moments, and some imaginative pieces of sound design (David Gregory) to help vary the interest. I wasn’t quite convinced by the scene where the characters are watching the horse-race (a little more time spent in the betting shop on a Saturday afternoon might have helped here), but the genuine enthusiasm of all concerned was infectious.

Ordinary Lads does stretch credibility from time to time, but that’s what comedies do in order to get their audiences laughing, and this production is no exception to that. The pace sometimes flags a little, possibly because the characters are cooped up in that living room the whole time, and the serious elements in the plot (don’t expect too much in terms of peaks and troughs) don’t really come across as anything momentous or revealing. But this play isn’t about massive generalities, just some ordinary single blokes trying to get by in the first half of the 21st Century.

I suspect these ‘likely lads’ will make a welcome return at some future point in Paul Ferguson’s career.

Cast: David Cullinane – Sparky; Nik Drake – Fergie; Nico Lennon – Jukebox/Tony Turk/Delivery Guy; Simon Naylor – Dibbs; Marc Pickering – Bones

Crew: Director – Jake Hendriks; Stage Manager – Katie Milne; Writer/Artistic Director – Paul Ferguson; Casting Director/Artistic Director – Charlotte Chinn; Executive Producer – Grant Stringer; Technical Director/Lighting Designer – Gary Bowman; Administrator – Caroline Ferguson; Designer – Olivia Altaras; Sound Designer – David Gregory; Wardrobe Supervisor – Rachel Cox; Production Electrician – Chris Gunnell; Scenic Painter – Ellie Sung; Production Crew – Joe Beardsmore; Production Crew – Sam Tanner

Reviewed at the Etcetera Theatre, 28 January 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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