Members of Oldbury Repertory Players set-building team have been pushing the boat out in readiness for the Players' production of Way Upstream, due to open at the Barlow Theatre, Langley, on Saturday.

They have built an 18ft by 6ft river cruiser that will dominate the stage during the run of the play, written in 1981 by Alan Ayckbourn as one of his early "dark" comedies and giving problems at the National Theatre when the craft in its production was floated.

ORP's boat has not been designed to float but to sit on a cleverly-disguised wheeled truck on blue plastic sheeting.

It has been built over the course of five weeks by about half a dozen members whose "hard-core" of four have previously been involved in producing a caravan for last year's Perfect Pitch, and before that a gypsy caravan for The Wind in the Willows and a locomotive for The Railway Children.

Drama director Alan Wood said, "There have been one or two changes in the team over the years, but there are four who have been there all that time. We have a very strong team and they do like to get stuck into a project.

"They do some brilliant structural work and we are very lucky to have them."

One of the leading stalwarts is Ray Lockey, who said that the cruiser had been "a bit of a challenge."

"To all intents and purposes, it's a working boat. During the play, people disappear into it, they eat in it and they sleep in it. Most of the action is on the boat and on the river bank that we've had to create. It's as realistic as we could make it - and we've designed the boat to be wheeled into the stage dock on its well-camouflaged truck at the end of the run because there's another show coming in."

First, you push the boat out, then you push the boat in. It sounds all very organised.

After 17 years as an actress with Kidderminster's Nonentities at the Rose Theatre, Julie Innes makes her directorial debut with next week's production of Ladies' Day.

It's about four women from a fishfilleting factory who take themselves off to the races for flirtation, deceit, betrayal and Buck's Fizz, written by Amanda Whittington and first produced by Hull Truck Theatre in 2005.

The Nonentities take a crack at it from next Monday to Saturday.


There's a warning in the current newsletter of the Lapworth Players that the loft of the village hall is going to be fitted with a Yale-type lock, the keys of which will be issued to a limited number of key holders.

Here's hoping that the Players manage to hang on to costumes, which are stored in the loft, more successfully than they have done in the past.

The latest thing to disappear is the top hat worn by the ringmaster in Pinocchio. It was covered in cerise sparkly material for the part but was sorely needed, according to the Players' newsletter, stripped back to the original for last month's Stepping Out.

Other items that have left the loft include the fire-eater's cloak from Pinocchio and a Snow White costume. The newsletter expresses the hope that the new lock "prevents the absent-minded borrowers."


It is remarkable, considering how many amateur theatre groups there are in the area, how often the same play is presented by two of them within a short space of time.

This rarely matters, because the area is large - although there are times, as with the recent shoulder-rubbing productions of Noel Coward's Private Lives by Kidderminster's Nonentities and their neighbours at Worcester's Swan Theatre Amateur Company, when there's just a chance of overlapping audiences.

The latest double appearance involves the Lapworth Players' Stepping Out (April 24-26) and the Stepping Out on which Dudley Little Theatre embark tonight. Again, no possibility of a clash, but with so many scripts to choose from I do find it astonishing. It is also, of course, a tribute to playwrights - in this case, Richard Harris - who manage to turn out such popular material.

In fact, Stepping Out is so popular that Dudley Little Theatre is tackling it for the second time, and involving three members of the cast of 15 years ago. Maurice Felton is in the same role as the only man, but Jean Potter and Lyndsey Parker have very different responsibilities to their previous ones, in aproduction that also finds some newcomers having their baptism of fire.

* What's On

Bloody Poetry, Hall Green Little Theatre (to Saturday).

South Pacific, Lichfield Operatic Society, Lichfield Garrick (to Saturday).

Stepping Out, Dudley Little Theatre, Netherton Arts Centre (to Saturday).

Thoroughly Modern Millie, Coventry Youth Operetta Group. Coventry College (to Saturday).

Who Goes Bare? Ullenhall Players, Palace Theatre, Redditch (to Saturday).

Wind in the Willows, Priory Thaatre, Kenilworth (to May 17).

Neville's Island, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (to May 17).

The Hollow, Sutton Arts Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (May 8-17).

The Seven-Year Itch, Grange Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (May 8-17).

White Horse Inn, Bromsgrove Operatic Society, Artrix, Bromsgrove (May 12-17).

The Pirates of Penzance, Stourport Choral & Operatic Society, Stourport Civic Hall (May 13-17).

The Assassin, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (May 14-17).