Village Idiot – Nottingham Playhouse

Reviewer: James Garrington

Writer: Samson Hawkins

Director: Nadia Fall

“The best show you’ll ever see – about HS2.”

Townies have decided they want a lie in so they’re building a new high-speed railway. The problem is, it’s planned to go straight through Barbara Honeybone’s house in the Northamptonshire village of Syresham, and she’s not happy. In fact, she’s refusing to budge. Barbara’s grandson Harry doesn’t care about the trains, he’s only interested in Debbie Mahoney – and the only thing Barbara hates more than the trains is the Mahoneys, particularly Debbie’s father Kevin and her brother Liam.

Barbara’s other grandson, Peter, on the other hand cares about the trains very much – so much so that he now works for HS2 and is tasked with making sure the village is emptied of people before construction starts.

Will Peter persuade Barbara to move out, and will Debbie find her dream future with Harry in Milton Keynes?

Village Idiot is the latest (and sadly the last) production from the wonderful Ramps on the Moon, an initiative which aims to normalise the presence of deaf and disabled people by putting them at the centre of their work. It’s explicitly designed to be inclusive, with every performance captioned and performed in a relaxed environment. It’s also extremely funny, though with a number of serious messages around how political decisions made many miles away affect local communities, and how major construction projects can have a huge impact not only on the environment but particularly on the lives of people affected. It’s a view of rural village life that is often invisible to anyone who lives in a town. This isn’t a retirement village or commuter belt, it’s people struggling to find work, and sometimes struggling to fit in.

It’s a very raucous and bawdy comedy delivered in a naturalistic way. These people don’t beat about the bush – and so it contains a constant flow of very strong language and adult themes around sexuality, race and disability. The joy is that the characters seem real and so the dialogue and references all seem natural. This is not gratuitous language, it’s just the way these people talk and it’s the unforced nature of it that adds to the humour. It’s hard to believe that this is the debut play by writer Samson Hawkins.

With a cast of six, there’s an opportunity for each characterisation to be developed and explored in this multi-themed play, and each actor makes the most of the opportunity. Barbara (Eileen Nicholas) starts as a dotty though determined woman who can’t remember whether or not she’s taken her memory pills, transforming as the play progresses into a very lucid and persuasive eco-activist. Grandson Harry (Maximilian Fairley) struggles to cope with drama – the only time he feels more relaxed is with Debbie (Faye Wiggan), though at times even her forthright approach to sex seems a bit too much for him. Mark Benton (Kevin) is an apparent homophobe hiding a surprising revelation about his planned emigration, and who has many of the funniest lines in the play all delivered beautifully deadpan. Liam (Joseph Langdon) is the quiet one who proves that still waters can run deep, while Peter (Philip Labey) tries to keep everything “normal” – he’s moved away from the village and no longer wants to fit in.

With a diverse and inclusive cast, along with the themes discussed, there will be something here that every audience member can recognise and relate to – and if it all gets a bit too much for some, there’s a chill-out room available.

Definitely not one for the faint-hearted or easily offended but it’s extremely funny and well worth a visit.

Runs until: 25 March 2023 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

A very funny piece of inclusive theatre

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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  1. Saw the Tuesday evening performance with happy anticipation. Absolutely disgusted by the over abundance of extremely bad language and vulgar observations of a sexual nature. Also totally disrespectful and unnnecessary references to the monarchy.
    The message was a good one but could have been achieved in a much funnier less offensive way.

  2. I wasn’t disgusted just a bit disappointed with the language. It wasn’t necessary and at times got in the way of telling the story. I thought the plot and the acting were good enough to carry it without the extra, almost childish, attempt to shock. Best line “whom” stole the show

  3. Absolute drivel – the only idiots here were anyone like myself who read the reviews and bought tickets expecting an evening of wit and intelligence. I had no problem with the swearing – other than if you use swear words all the time – it completely eradicates the comic effect. Don’t waste your money !

  4. Agree with Doug, Maggie and Sue. So much swearing was unnecessary. I thought it was funny when the cast were performing in the award show but when talking in the forest I nearly fell asleep.
    Really it was a way of getting you to the theatre for a political rant about HS2 by promising a comedy performance which failed to deliver.

  5. Goodness gracious me. Do you all live in Tunbridge Wells?!

    This was a big hearted exuberant and intelligent play about inclusivity, habitat (human and animal) place and tradition, comparing well with the genius Jerusalem.

    The swearing was not out of place, the romances were deeply affecting and the anguish authentic.

    It deserves a long run in a west end theatre.

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