“The Pub is the Hub, ladies and gents, so it’s use it or lose it time”, says Johnny, our local publican for the evening here at The Railway Inn in Yatton. He’s not really a publican, you understand, but an actor – his real name is George Williams but he is very convincing, especially after inviting us to the pub quiz and demanding we choose team names (we go for Weston-super-Female Horses. He’s not much impressed). Johnny is a bit of a knob really. You’ve met him. Loads of times. His nervousness comes from too much drink, his jokes are very ‘Dad’ and his heart is breaking.
From the outset, the audience is involved (it’s like we’re in a real pub. Hang on a minute, we are!) and taken into Johnny’s confidence. He’s hosting a ‘Big Fun Fundraiser’ for the fictional Nag’s Head – pubs are closing at an alarming rate and we’re here to save Johnny’s. Or it could be that we’re here to save Johnny. His wife, Susan, has walked out on him and it’s easy to see why. Actually, there’s no way I’d have put Kesty Morrison’s Susan with Johnny in the first place. She’s too refined; he’s not. She’d be better suited to the gentle, Native North American obsessed Ted, played by Eoin Slattery, who’s helping her out. Nudge, nudge? Maybe, maybe not.
There is an eponymous horse. There is also singing (nice folk by Susan, terrible karaoke by Johnny), music, unexpected dancing, bitter sweet reality and a lot of laughs. I’m not sure there’s a better way to enjoy a pint or two of local Butcombe ale and packets of crisps with friends. Writer Rina Vergano has observed local pubs, you can tell! Horses! Horses! might well be taught in schools as a history lesson in 30 years time. Even in 2018, it feels somewhat nostalgic.
This was my second Wassail Theatre production, who are bursting with delicious West County flavour. They believe in tonnes of local references and enjoyment. Theatre Orchard brings theatre to peculiar places and I’d love it if they could attract more shows to The Railway Inn in Yatton: a pub on a train platform, 3 stops from central WsM, is ideal.
- Image by Paul Blakemore, with thanks