top of page

HAVE YOUR          SAY.....

Whether you agree or disagree with our critics, we welcome  your comments and will try to include them at the end of the review. 

Please use our contact form 

Best of British as Talisman takes on Bryson Travelogue

Photo by Peter Weston.

Talisman Theatre presents Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’. Running from Monday 24 June to Saturday 29 June 2024.

Review by Annette Kinsella

"A witty exploration of Britain's quirks and cultures takes to the Talisman's stage. A fast-paced multi-rolling comedy directed by Steve Smith."

Who can resist a peek at someone’s diary? As real and fictionalised writers from Samuel Pepys to Adrian Mole know, the lure of an insight into a person’s inner monologue is overwhelming.

Travelogues may not quite be the forbidden fruit of a diary – but the appeal is every bit as tempting, especially when brought to life with the assurance of the Talisman Theatre, currently performing the stage adaptation of Bill Bryson’s 1995 bestseller Notes From A Small Island.

Photo by Peter Weston.

Following the curmudgeonly American author as he travels the length and breadth of the UK, the script is no small feat for a small theatre company, with the nine-strong company assuming 88 characters and a myriad of accents.

Matt Baxter and Alan Wales both take on the title character with aplomb, encountering formidable landladies, London cabbies and bohemian beatniks with a mix of bemusement and affection, capturing the voice and character of the author capably.

Photo by Peter Weston.

The dual casting is a neat theatrical device, showing the passage of time as Bryson travels the country, falling in love first with a native and then with the nation itself.

From there the action proceeds at breakneck speed, as  Bryson absorbs all the culture he can, from the newspaper strikes at Wapping to gentrification of the London docks.

Photo by Peter Weston.

Director Steve Smith handles the pace well, with each individual vignette well-contained and no sense of overlap of characters – not the easiest of tasks given the small cast and large number of parts. And it was great to see some of the phrases and terms which so confounded Bryson are still a source of confusion today – when a hotelier referred to her prized counterpane my American companion turned to me with an expression of utter perplexity.

Photo by Peter Weston.

If there was a criticism, it would be that the set is slightly too colourful for a 70s England, calling to mind the verdant psychedelia of the Tellytubbies set rather than inflation-struck, strike-ridden grey townscapes. But then there’s little more English than Tellytubbies, so perhaps that was intentional.

Overall, this show perfectly captured the love letter to the UK intended by its original author – the best of British theatre.

Tickets are available via the website or by contacting the Box Office direct on 01926 856548.



bottom of page