Joan Shirley’s 1989 comedy belongs to a very British genre about respectable people doing naughty things in a good cause, but predates the most obvious comparison, Calendar Girls, by a decade.
Glenda’s husband Robert has given up a high-flying executive career to become a vicar after miraculously emerging unscathed from a car crash, leaving her dislocated from the lifestyle to which she had been accustomed.
When Robert goes off on a month-long course, local lottery winner Joe Carpenter (a name with an oddly Biblical ring) pops round to suggest that Glenda turns her house into a temporary brothel so that she and her equally cash-strapped friends can make a quick killing by entertaining a party of visiting American businessmen.
The play never rises above the fundamental implausibility and, I have to say, essential grubbiness of this idea.
The characters might be more sympathetic if their situation was more desperate, but it seems we are in a corner of England where poverty means struggling to keep up the private school fees, while Robert and Glenda’s reduced circumstances still look pretty luxurious to me.
A lot of effort has gone into staging this cringeworthy play and I did find myself warming to Suzie Chard’s performance as the play’s unlikeliest hooker, a woman struggling to run a farm while bringing up five children. Danielle Johnson is also strangely convincing as the group’s professional adviser.
On the other hand Nicola Weeks, as a backpacking American teenager, is seriously irritating and the play is at its least sufferable when it tries to get serious and preachy about her fledgling relationship with Joe.
But this middle play in the summer season from Ian Dickens Productions drew a big audience to the Grand and it appeared to be enjoying itself.
* Running time: Two hours, 40 minutes. Until Saturday. Also at the Lichfield Garrick from October 6.