Jam by Matt Parvin, Finborough Theatre, 16 June 2017

This was not the best Friday evening Janie and I have ever had.

First stop was the Finborough Theatre – our latest hot place – in several senses of the term that evening – it had been a scorcher of a day and was still well hot early evening. The heat in part explains our irritability.

I deposited our “friendship form” with the delightful volunteers at the ticket desk who were unsure what to do with the form, making an almighty fuss about it until someone senior enough came downstairs, grabbed the form and took it away. By this point, Janie was convinced that the senior response was inadequate in the circumstances, whereas I was convinced that it was fine; all I had wanted to do was save myself the price of a stamp by handing the thing in rather than posting it.

We were there to see Jam by Matt Parvin – click here for Finborough resource.

The acting was superb and the subject-matter really interesting, but Janie and I both found it nigh-on impossible to suspend our disbelief in the behaviour of the characters,  in particular the school teacher, given the situation.

Before any savvy readers start to think that we read reviews and then find ourselves seeing the production as reviewers would have us see it, I should say that it is our habit studiously to avoid reading reviews until we have seen a production and formed opinions for ourselves.

But on this occasion, our friend, Michael Billington’s review in the Guardian – click here – sums up almost exactly how we felt and how we discussed it in the minutes/hours after we left the theatre.

David Ralf in The Stage is kinder on the piece; “a touch contrived”. He is also full of deserved praise for the quite excellent performances by the two on stage; Jasmine Hyde and Harry Melling – remember where you heard the names first.

Long before we got to the theatre, Janie and I had agreed that we had a crazy craving for Persian food – Mohsen’s. This craving was only exacerbated by references to the Iranian origins of the teacher character in the play.

But it turned out that Mohsens is closed for a refurb at the moment.

No matter, we thought, Alounak is still there and not such a detour for us. Well, we used to be fans of Alounak’s food, but the standard seems to have declined considerably – at least to our taste. Now we can hardly wait for Mohsen to reopen.

Not the most successful Friday evening ever – but then there was still Saturday evening to come and that turned out to be an altogether more pleasing experience…

…I guess it was a case of “jam tomorrow”.

Footprints on the Moon by Maureen Hunter, Finborough Theatre, 4 June 2017

Janie and I have been meaning to try the Finborough Theatre for ages. Eventually we got round to booking a couple of productions this June – Footprints on the Moon being the first of them.

What a friendly place.

We went on a Sunday evening for this one and it was lovely to have a drink in a quiet local pub before strolling upstairs to take our seats in the theatre. Perhaps when we go on a Friday or Saturday night, the pub will heave a bit like the The Bridge beneath The Canal Cafe Theatre or The Prince Albert beneath The Gate Theatre.

But I digress.

Footprints On the Moon is set in a remote town in the Canadian prairies, the town being loosely based on Indian Head, Saskatchewan, from whence the playwright hails.

Being a tiny theatre club operating on a minuscule budget, naturally the Finborough has an excellent on-line resource with information about the production and quotes from reviews – click here. It simply wouldn’t be possible for a big beast like The National theatre to do this, would it?

But I digress again.

Footprints On the Moon is a very well-written chamber play centring around a feisty female character, Joanie, who has rich thoughts but is trapped in her small town world. We learn at the end of the play that she has never been beyond her immediate prairie environment, not by train, not by plane. She doesn’t want her daughter to move to Toronto, where Joanie’s estranged husband now lives.

It was written and is set in the 1980s, so there are no cell phones or internet connections either. Janie and I discussed afterwards whether that particular type of parochialism has gone for ever in the internet age.

Anne Adams as Joanie was excellent, as was Derek Hagen as the love interest and Samantha Coughlan as Joanie’s loyal friend. Sally Cheng did a decent job as the sultry teenage daughter, although looked a little too senior to be quite such an immature broody teen.

This is a claustrophobic (in a good way) chamber play – we never leave Joanie’s stoop/dining room – such plays work especially well in small theatres like the Finborough.  The second half of the play worked better than the first half for me, although I enjoyed the whole thing – Janie if anything preferred the first half.

We were both quite tired on Sunday evening yet came away delighted with our evening of theatre and looking forward to our next visit.

We shall be signing up as friends of the place next time we go.

Once We Were Mothers by Lisa Evans, Orange Tree Theatre, 13 October 2007

My recall of this one is extremely sketchy. I vaguely recall the scenarios, as set out in the Orange Tree Archive – click here. I remember the cast being a collection of Orange Tree regulars and a few new faces. I remember the play not really fitting together – it was basically three separate stories, merely linked by being essentially mother and daughter scenarios.

Michael Billington wasn’t too sure about it – see here.

John Thaxter in British Theatre Guide quite liked it – here.

We’ll have dined at Don Fernando afterwards, that I can say for sure.