Review: German Skerries Paints Portrait Of Everyday British Life

German Skerries, Orange Tree Theatre ★★★★☆

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 31 months ago
Review: German Skerries Paints Portrait Of Everyday British Life German Skerries, Orange Tree Theatre 4
George Evans and Howard Ward in German Skerries at the Orange Tree Theatre © Manuel Harlan

One of Robert Holman's early plays, German Skerries is set in the countryside around Middlesbrough on the site of a popular birdwatching destination.

Sounds dull, you might think, yet this is a strange, slow-burner of a play, written in a painstakingly naturalistic style that realistically mimics people's conversations.

Don't most plays do that? Well, no. Or not as well. In German Skerries, Holman paints a subtle portrait of real life: the moment two strangers meet. The moment a husband and wife have a drunken argument, then make up in a passionate embrace.

There is little drama — not even much plot — and yet there is more than enough emotion and action in these scenes plucked directly from everyday life.

Holman's characters encounter the full range of human experience including love, desire, humour, awkwardness, disappointment and bereavement.

As Holman himself points out in the programme, his plays absolutely rely on the quality of the acting. Fortunately, the players don't let him down.

Howard Evans is loveable as bumbling village teacher Martin, a man so quintessentially English we can immediately laugh ruefully when he puts on bicycle clips over his cords or endlessly struggles with a sticky lock in his potting shed door.

Similarly Carol (Katie Moore) and Jack (George Evans) are characters from a very specific place and time. The actors artfully bring Holman's words to life recreating exactly the mix of tempestuous attraction, energetic conversation and gentle companionableness that make up so many youthful relationships.

The staging is very believable too.

Designer James Perkins convinces us of our surroundings with an impressively realistic grassy bank that acts like a cross-section of a wider whole we can't see.

If the production has a fault, it is that the actors don't have much space to move, and in the round, this inevitably means things will be missed depending on where you sit.

Full of interesting local knowledge (in case you can't be bothered to Google it, the word skerries means rocks) and a healthy dose of good old fashioned socialism, Holman's play is a delightful experience — as relevant now as when it was first performed in 1979.

German Skerries is on at the Orange Tree Theatre, 1 Clarence Street, Richmond TW9 2SA until 2 April. Tickets £12-£25 (Under 30s tickets available Monday-Thursday). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 08 March 2016