Dirty Dusting

Broadstone Players Theatre Company War Memorial Hall, Broadstone JJ 21 May 2024

I was pleased to be able to join the small but enthusiastic audience for the opening night of Broadstone Players’ production of the comedy, Dirty Dusting by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood. Broadstone Players challenge themselves by putting on a real variety of genres and I do like to support them.

The play centres on three aging cleaners who, threatened with redundancy and replacement with ‘younger models,’ decide to start a sex ‘phone line business after one of them answers the ‘phone to a wrong number. The entire play is conducted in the office the cleaners are supposed to be cleaning!

I note that the original production opened in South Shields and as there are a number of references made to the North-East – Newcastle, Sunderland and South Shields – I assume that is where the playwrights intended to set it. The accents adopted by the cast were broadly Yorkshire based and this worked well despite the place name references.

I was puzzled, however, at the time period in which the play was meant to be set. I note the play was published in 2003 and it seemed to be placed in the very recent past. However, although there were modern warning signs on the walls, there was no computer equipment in sight. PCs and monitors have been conspicuous in offices for at least 30 years! Accordingly, despite some of the modern trappings, the set created more of a 1980s’ feel. Also, many of the jokes and much of the comedy was quite bawdy, which seems anachronistic in a modern setting and imbued a feeling of a 1980s’ sit com or Carry On film. The play is better suited to being a full-on 1980s piece, though a number of references (particularly financial ones) may then need to be changed.

The play opened with Elise (Lesley James) and Gladys (Sue Gibson), who worked well together and set the scene very well. Gladys was teetering on the edge of panto at times (particularly in the drunk scene) – less is often more.

There seemed to be no sign of first night nerves initially although they crept in when they were joined by Olive (Sue Spencer). The dialogue was a bit laboured at times and faster pace and cue bites will no doubt evolve as the week goes on. On balance it was a strong first night performance.

A quick shout out to the prompt, Verna Long. Verna was not required much at all, but when she was, I thought she prompted in a light, measured and effective way without intrusively affecting the action. It’s a thankless task and a good prompt should be recognised!

Hats off to Chris Kemp who played Dave and who, I see from the programme, only joined the cast a few weeks ago. It is quite a difficult part and he seemed a little uncomfortable on stage, perhaps unsurprisingly as such a recent addition. I am sure he will settle into the role.

I have several reservations about the play itself. However, it does have its funny moments and as the cast relax into it, I’m sure it will get funnier. The audience clearly very much enjoyed it and it was a fun evening.

The play runs for the rest of this week (with a matinee also on Saturday 25 May) and I hope they continue to get good audiences for the remainder of the run.