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Criterion Theatre review: Holes

Holes, Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, to September 7.

There’s been a plane crash. Oh yes, and a nuclear war. There are four people left on earth. On a desert island, as it happens.

Desert Island Risks might have been an alternative title – the risks being all too evident as the packs of chicken chasseur and mushroom risotto rescued from the plane begin to run out. Or go off. A collection of Jamie Oliver recipes, also from the plane, are not much use when fundamental ingredients are in short supply. There’s also the risk that the two male characters, Ian and Gus, might strangle each other before the end of the first half, such is their animosity. They are colleagues from work who had been on their way to a conference, along with HR manager Marie. HR stands for human resources, of course. And the company deals in demographics – statistical data relating to the population and groups within it. Irony? There’s plenty of that in Tom Basden’s bleak, black comedy. Some telling lines, too, about the human condition in general and Englishness in particular. Anne-marie Greene’s direction makes the most of a splendid sand-strewn set, designed by Terry Cornwall, and brings the best out of a talented cast. Jon Elves plays Gus, a somewhat one-dimensional character embittered before the crash and imbibing prodigious quantities of duty-free spirits once he has failed to make contact with the wasted world beyond the island. Pete Gillam gives a fine performance as the more complex Ian, apparently relishing the chance to dig and build rather than prod computer keyboards and stare at screens. Karen Evans captures Marie’s superficiality with fine comic timing. Rubbing in factor-15 and beaming back at the sun, she seems to think that she’s been handed an unexpected holiday. Not for long, as it turns out. The fourth member of the cast is Erin, a teenager who has lost her parents. Kelly Davidson gives us a sense of an innocent, shocked and baffled girl having to grow up fast. And by the end of the play it seems that Ian and Erin have become Adam and Eve, set on begetting a new human race. For tickets go to:

Barbara Goulden writes: Great performances from the Criterion cast in this bleak comedy with echoes of Bohemian Rhapsody thanks to Jon Elves in the role of Gus.

Must remember to never be at a karaoke evening when he's channelling Freddie Mercury.

Have no idea what this play was actually about - but it certainly kept me interested and got Peter Gillam into a grass skirt.

Particularly enjoyed Karen Evans' flirtatious efforts as hapless HR manager Marie while wide-eyed Kelly Davidson had no idea what was coming when the duty-free and ready-meals from their crashed aircraft ran out.

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