Snails are not renowned for speeding - but this is not why Oysters and Snails is about to turn up two years late at Walsall's Grange Playhouse.

It is the 10th play that Fellowship Players member Phil Holyman has written and it was intended to be part of the Players' 60th anniversary season in 2006-7. Then there were commitment clashes for some cast members at virtually the 11th hour and it had to be abandoned.

It is based on the Holyman hope to write something that would tease audiences by flirting with sex on its fringes without risking in-your-face offence. If the patrons detect a hint of the Noel Coward approach in Private Lives, he will be delighted. Like Private Lives, Oysters and Snails is about an estranged couple who find love with younger partners in a story that has the passions bubbling away beneath the surface.

When he is not writing plays, Phil Holyman is running the professional theatre company he established in 2006 to present small-scale classical plays in studio spaces - with 1912 the date by which they have to have been created.

He explains: "That was the year that Strindberg died and that's where I see a big dividing line between the older classical style and modern 20th-Century stuff. I've been writing plays since 1998. Some of them were written when I was on a young writers' course at Birmingham Rep."

The 1912 constraint on his productions does not apply to the plays that he writes. His self-imposed remit for Oysters and Snails was that it would not involve going into territory that audiences often tend not to like - so he fell back onto the Noel Coward of the 1930s and 1940s.

The unavoidably-delayed result will be at the Grange Playhouse from Thursday next week until June 14.

* Birmingham-based Youth Onstage will be on new territory when it visits the Palace Theatre, Redditch, for the first time to present Anything Goes from June 11-14.

This is one of the most popular musicals with amateur groups, but it caused plenty of problems for PG Wodehouse and Guy Bolton on its way to becoming a Broadway hit in 1934, followed by further pre-war success in the West End.

For a start, the original draft found passengers in danger on the liner on which the story is set - but, just a few weeks before the show was due to open, a fire on board the passenger ship SS Morro Castle in heavy seas off the coast on New Jersey on September 8, 1934, caused the deaths of 137 passengers and crew.

Clearly, the script had to be changed - but Wodehouse and Bolton found themselves watching their work being drastically altered by a second pair of writers, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse - who were themselves not happy because they were paid less than the original two. Further revision produced versions in 1987 and 2002 by John Weidman and Timothy Crouse, son of Russel, and the 2006 revival with 18 songs by Cole Porter.

Wodehouse died in 1975 but he had already been forthright in his criticism of the music in the Lindsay-Crouse rewrite. He wrote to Guy Bolton: "I have always disliked Anything Goes heartily because the wrongness of the balance offends my artistic soul.

"The score is so thin. Apart from the three song hits, we have almost nothing. Even after 27 years I can remember how lousy the Gipsy in Me number was. All we have except for the three big ones are All Through the Night - which is lyrically all wrong for the spot it's in, the love story not having advanced so far."

After the early rewriting, Wodehouse said his percentage was £50 a week for his "two lines", though Bolton later said that he and his wife were practically living off it. "Amateurs," he said, "are still doing it all over the place. I don't know where they find all the amateurs."

He would probably have been even more astonished to find that amateurs are still being found to present Anything Goes nearly three-quarters of acentury after it had first burst on Broadway.

Youth Onstage, the next crew aboard the show, will be happy to welcome new members. More details are available from Suzy Petty on 0121 777 3995 and at

* For Class Act Drama, the road to Grease is becoming more slippery. The group, based at Birmingham's Custard Factory in Gibb Street, Digbeth, has not found enough boys - preteens and teenagers - to play the T-Birds and Danny Zuko in its forthcoming production.

It seems that the organisers can't move for the applications from girls who want to be Sandy or one of the Pink Ladies, but they are still looking for lads in the eight-16 age group to provide the other half of the action. And lack of experience doesn't matter, because training will be provided.

More details are available from

* I gather that those splendid citizens who are the engine room of Sutton Arts Theatre were a trifle tickled by my account (May 14) of the lengths to which they had gone to ensure that there was a slice of lemon available for my interval gin-and-tonic during the production of The Hollow.

Frances Richmond-Ward, who was the principal supplier of the citrus, told me, "We howled!"

But more was to come. She said, "I hear, via the grapevine, that you are also fond of a slice of lime. What can possibly supercede that? A pickle? I shall have to think very carefully about your next piece of complimentary fruit."

If there is just a suspicion of the circumspect in the way I next cross the theatre threshold, please put it down to the possibility of a pickle.

Lovers and Winners, Solihull Society of Arts, The Edge, Alderbrook School, Solihull (to Saturday).
The Full Monty, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
The Secret Life of Henry and Alice, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (to Saturday).
In at the Deep End, Norbury Theatre, Droitwich (to Saturday).
The Breath of Life, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (May 31-June 7).
Red Hot and Cole, St Augustine's Musical Theatre Company, Solihull Library Theatre (June 2-7).
Oysters and Snails, Fellowship Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (June 5-14).