Bromsgrove's bicycling town crier, Kevan Ward, is accustomed to helping out with a bit of publicity - but I can't help thinking he was taking things a bit too far when riding his tricycle home from rehearsals for the new musical, Charlotte Badger (in which he happens to be playing the town crier).

He was thrown over the handlebars and concussed for a short while after hitting something that had run out in front of him. What was the culprit? A badger. Yes, really.

When he came round, it had gone, which presumably means that the badger survived - hopefully, with fewer cuts and bruises than Kevan, who will also be seen as the court clerk in the show and was limping and festooned in plasters at subsequent rehearsals.

Gail Graye, who takes the central role, says, "He normally wears knee-pads and elbow-pads, but this time he wasn't. But he did have his helmet on. Otherwise, it might have been a lot worse."

It might, indeed. He landed on his helmet, which split. Co-writer Euan Rose, while full of sympathy, can't help being impressed by the circumstances. He says: "He was ambushed by a badger! I hope that's a good omen."

And there's another intriguing happening to report as Charlotte Badger approaches its premiere unveiling at Bromsgrove's Artrix next week - preview on Tuesday, first night on Wednesday.

The show's 8ft by 4ft laminated poster, which, as I mentioned just before Christmas, was wrenched off its bolts and disappeared from the theatre wall, has mysteriously returned - rolled up and left outside the theatre.

Clearly, these are stirring times for the story of Bromsgrove's own woman pirate, even before it takes its patrons onto the high seas. I hope that musical groups in the area will take the opportunity to cast their eyes over the show, which runs to Sunday, January 20.

Kevan, meanwhile, will be in Bromsgrove High Street in his official regalia on Saturday, to announce the coming of the show. 

 My former colleague Roger Clarke has always made good listening. He delivers drollery dead-pan, on the wings of an arrestingly gnarled accent. The words can sometimes sound quite sharp, but it would take a long time to find any actual ferocity behind them.

He's been telling me about Sutton Coldfield's Vesey Players, and I so enjoyed listening that I thought you might like to join my one-man audience.

Roger began by riveting me with his opening: "I have news of great import, of a theatrical event which you may be interested in, unless you are still taking medication - in which case you will probably be sensible enough to avoid it like the plague."

Having claimed my attention irresistibly, he went on: "Vesey Players will be presenting Aladdin at Bishop Vesey Grammar School. This will be the last panto of the current season, or the first of this year's, depending upon your point of view and inside leg measurement.

"From your knowledge of the amateur stage, you will probably know that they do not come much more amateur than Vesey Players, who claim they are the premier pantomime company of Sutton Coldfield. You might think this is akin to the Queen's Head claiming to be the best pub in Steelhouse Lane, but that does not make it any the less true.

"I have been head-hunted by Vesey Players - which sounds better than taken in as a charity case - and although I have written and appeared in numerous pantomimes in the past, and from time to time have been known to appear in sketches and revues in a frock, this will be my first time treading the boards (rather gingerly in high heels) as a fully fledged dame in the role of Widow Twankey. The T is silent as in Twarrington ('Oh no, it isn't!' etc).

"The principals include a land agent, two disc jockeys, a teacher, a supermarket worker, a student, a clothes shop manager, a school caretaker, a brewery worker, a music teacher and... a Birmingham Mail sports writer.

"As no one seemed to be sure what to do with the press, and as someone who still has ambitions to break into journalism one day, I am organising a press night on Wednesday, February 7. The curtain goes up, if we can find the right string, at 7.15 pm and there will be a press reception during the interval with wine, women, song - if you want to hum anything, feel free - and soft drinks.

"As this is a family panto (apart from when I am on), and as I am not paying for the review tickets, if you want to bring along children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, the odd love child, the normal love child, and so on, feel free.

"Almost like the old Hippodrome, apart from the carpets, the lighting, the soft seats, sound, 42-piece band, songs you can recognise, an audience..."

If the show is as appealing as its build-up, it will be worth the pilgrimage. 

 A drama workshop will be held during the one-act play festival at the Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull, next year. It will start on the evening of Friday, February 29 and continue all the next day.

Organiser Vivienne Wilkes says, "This is an excellent way to experience a 'taster' in drama skills and gain confidence, or to extend those skills in an exciting and fun atmosphere."

It costs £5 to take part and those who do so will have the chance to present a short improvised piece of work on the Saturday evening at the festival's award ceremony.

More details and application forms are available from Vivienne Wilkes on 0121 777 5964, by email at

Aladdin, Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth (to Saturday).
Robin Hood, The Panto, From the Top, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (to Saturday).
Beauty and the Beast, Oldbury Rep, Barlow Theatre, Langley (to Jan 19).
Dick Whittington & Music Hall, Union Theatre, Dorridge Village Hall (Jan 10-12).
Charley's Aunt, Grange Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (Jan 10-19).
Dick Whittington, Norbury Theatre, Droitwich (Jan 10-27).
Jack and the Beanstalk, Aldridge Theatre (Jan 11-26).
Charlotte Badger, Aardvark Productions, Artrix, Bromsgrove (Jan 15-20).
Crown Matrimonial, Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth (Jan 16-26).
Loads of Laughter, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (Jan 17-19).