Review: Roots by Arnold Wesker at Colchester Mercury until April 28.

Roots by Arnold Wesker at Colchester Mercury until April 28.

Blast my old boots, bor, some people do talk a lot of old squit. But not Beatie’s mum and dad. They’re farm-labouring folk in deepest Norfolk where they’ve brought up a son and two daughters through difficult times and things are not a whole heap better now they’ve reached the 1950s.

Mr Bryant’s job is looking after pigs and Mrs Bryant’s is looking after him. Their conversation is limited to work and food and little else and Mrs Bryant draws comfort from a bit of Dean Martin on the radio and the regularity of each passing bus. “There goes the three o’clock,” she says with a smile.

But now Beatie is back. She’s a sort of prodigal daughter who, as a chambermaid at the Bell Hotel in Norwich, fell in love with Ronnie, a radically red kitchen hand. When he left for a job in London, Beatie followed him and they have lived in sin for three years.

Now it appears marriage may be in the offing. She’s back to stir up the family because Ronnie is coming to meet them all and she wants them to make a good impression. She thinks the sun shines round Ronnie, who knows all about art and books and music. “He’s an intellectual who failed all his exams,” she says by way of an explanation.

It’s a play full of home truths about family life and bubbles with good old country humour, some of it pretty sexist, because the brainwashed Beatie, played with a fine na�ve fire by Natasha Rickman, is determined to spark a bit of conversational life into her dull parents, siblings and in-laws so Ronnie will not think them country bumkins.

There’s a hilarious final scene with the whole family in their Sunday suits, dying to get at the sandwiches and trifle while waiting impatiently for Ronnie to put in an appearance. It is also the moment when Beatie finally stops living in her boyfriend’s shadow and finds her own voice.

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The very good cast all use passable Norfolk accents with strong performances from Linda Broughton and Roger Delves-Broughton as the Bryants, Gina Isaac as sister Jenny and Tim Treslove as her husband.

David Henshall.

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