Burt 'n' Joyce

17 May 04 words: Giuliana Steele-Kendrick
The play is completely Nottingham based. It's set on the street I used to live on which is round the corner from the Co-op car-park.

Burt 'n' JoyceUK charity shops. Burt `n' Joyce is written and performed by a Nottingham theatre group. The night is split into two small plays both concerning two elderly Nottinghamshire charity workers.

The first Charity Begins at Home
sees the couple discovering thousands of pounds in cash (plus burglar mask and gun) outside the shop. Do they spend it on their friends or hand it in? The first play is well written and has some good comic set-ups (particularly one involving coffee and underpants) It has some very funny lines such as "But they're vegetarians Joyce! I can't cater for ethnic groups" or Burt remembering his famous talking budgie "One minute I was making bicycle wheels in Raleigh, the next thing I knew I was showing Ester Ranzen my cock."

The second half Pop Tarts is set the night before Pop Idol runner up and local boy Darren Dawes is coming to town. The first half of Burt `n' Joyce was much sharper than the second half.

To see a play in a charity shop is a one-off experience and is the perfect background set for the actors. In the interval the audience were encouraged to buy from the shop. I went straight for the vinyl section and bought a Slim Whitman album for 49p.

This is not a play you go to if you want to see the darker side of theatre but it is an enjoyable light-hearted play with some funny moments. The plays are endearing because they are so typically Nottingham - good and bad. From wheely bins, Co-op car parks and `me duck' to crack houses and shootings. One of the biggest laughs of the night came when Joyce called Darren Dawes `the most successful pop act to come out of Nottingham since Paperlace'.

The couple then tried to list other
Nottingham luminaries. They got as far as Peter Bowles, Robert Lindsey, Sue Pollard and `the one from Coronation Street' then had to give up. Who knows if Mark Whiteley continues with such tightly scripted plays one day he might well be on Burt and Joyce's list too.

Giuliana browsing the charity shop records at the interval


I went to meet Mark Whitely, actor and writer of Burt `n' Joyce, before the night's performance at Help the Aged in London...

Could you tell me a bit about the plays?

"It's about two elderly charity shop workers and two days in their life in a shop. The plays are basically all about friendship. There are only two actors, me and Cerianne Roberts who plays Joyce. Considering she's Welsh she doesn't do a bad Nottingham accent! I work for a small theatre company and when I write, I write two-handers because it's cheaper and because you can fit 3 people in the van."


Why did you write a play to be staged in a charity shop?

"My first play was called Thick as Thieves and we toured that in people's houses. I send loads of emails to BBC local radio stations asking people to volunteer their houses and the deal was that we turned up and organise the rooms and all they had to do was feed us for the night and put us up. We even performed in a narrow boat in Liverpool! When I wrote Burt `n' Joyce, I just thought `well I've created a rod for my own back and I do things in weird and unusual places' so we decided to perform it in charity shops. A lot of people are intimidated to go into big theatres and I guess Burt `n' Joyce is just my little campaign to get a different type of people to see plays. Our feedback book, that we welcome people to sign at the end of the show, is full of people who say they've never been to the theatre before. A lady came up to me the other night and said she hadn't laughed that much in ages. I rather have that than the five quid entrance fee."

How much of the play is based on your
Nottingham background?

"It's completely Nottingham based. The play is based on the street I used to live on which is round the corner form the Co-op car-park. It's where I'm from and very personal. The characters are loosely based on my parents. That's the thing about any kind of art: you are at your best when you do something you know. Thick of Thieves was about two burglars and I live in a scruffy part of Nottingham called Netherfield where those sorts of people live and I drink in the same pubs as them. A famous actor once said to me that you're always find actors with prostitutes or thieves and it's true! It's a story telling thing - they like listening to our stories and I like listening to theirs. I'm still a great people watcher and I love watching old people because they don't realise how funny they are. My grandma still says `5 and 20 to' for 25 minutes to 1pm or so on."

How different have the reactions been between
Nottingham and London?

"Exactly the same. Last night I had to stand on stage for about a minute while three people where uncontrollably laughing in their seats. As an actor that gives you an immense sense of power because you know they'll be giggling for the rest of the night. You see some of the audience holding back there laughter and you feel like saying to them `Get it out!'"


Burt and Joyce will be coming to a charity shop near Nottingham:


May   17th Sue Ryder, 45 Park Farm Centre, Allestree, Derby
         18th Sue Ryder, 13 Firs Parade, Matlock
         19th Sue Ryder, 17 Biggin Street, Loughborough
          20th Sue Ryder, 63 Nottingham Road, Eastwood, Notts
          21st Help the Aged, 8 Lincoln Street, Nottingham
          22nd Sue Ryder, Victoria Road, Netherfield, Nottingham

June 17th Age Concern, 352 Carlton Hill, Nottingham
         18th Age Concern, 352
Carlton Hill, Nottingham

July  1st Nottingham Arts Theatre, George St, Nottingham
         2nd Nottingham Arts Theatre,
George St, Nottingham

         3rd Nottingham Arts Theatre,
George St, Nottingham


One man's rubbish is another man's treasure or so the saying goes. I have personally tested this small nugget of wisdom with regular visits to charity shops. Maybe it's the influence of daytime TV antique shows or maybe it's because I am quite thrifty but whatever the reason my flat is full of other people's junk.

So imagine my excitement when I discovered there was a play currently touring

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