TRCH Ranulph

Mrs Green

23 July 13 words: Jared Wilson
A play put together by a group of former students of the Television Workshop, about soul, marijuana and getting old

Mrs Green by Ashley Bird
Photo by Ashley Bird

Mrs Green is a play put together by a group of former students at Stoney Street’s famed Television Workshop. It’s a musical about an old lady who had a successful career as a backing singer in various soul outfits. But now she’s retired from public performances and lives in New Basford, amusing herself by growing cannabis plants (personal use only, honest guv) and inviting a multitude of friends to come around for spacecakes and singalongs.
 

The script and musical score is written by Nic Harvey (who also plays Darren Bostock) and stars the hilarious Ben Welch in the title role. But many notable Nottingham musicians such as Rob Green, Nina Smith and Youth Oracle have contributed to the songs too.

The supporting cast is particularly impressive. Shauna Shim (who starred alongside Nicole Kidman in the Lars Von Trier movie Dogville) plays Vivian. Kieron Hardcastle (Kes in This Is England) plays Scott and Tom Cowling (Skins) plays Greg, the Community Support Officer who uses a lot of discretion in his dealings with the title star.

The storyline is fairly simple. Mrs Green hosts an open house to her younger friends and they come round to discuss their life issues and sing songs together. She is then visited by her estranged former bandmate Vivian De Wilde and several sing-offs and a sprained ankle (Vivian’s) later they are old friends again, sharing a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum. The other characters pivot around them, offering up the usual issues of relationships and cashflow as minor plot diversions.

There’s plenty of repping of Nottingham in there. We’re proud to say that a copy of LeftLion Magazine was on the coffee table throughout the performance, but local community radio station Kemet FM gets an even more special mention. Mrs Green enters and wins their ‘Massive Quiz’ and the cast give an impromptu performance to their listeners. The references to our city go down well with the local audience, but you sense they’re also transferable enough to work when this is performed elsewhere too.

In the second half it all gets a bit more emotional. Despite her bravado we begin to realise that Mrs Green is more fragile than she appears. She confides in us with a musical soliloquy about getting old, the fact she never had children of her own and her concerns that her own mental health is on the wane. It’s all very sensitively dealt with too – I had a conversation with a woman aged over fifty afterwards and she was genuinely surprised that a 25-year-old playwright and his 20-year-old star can deliver such pathos, especially when they’re the opposite sex and under half the age.

The music in this production is truly heartwarming - and much of it is serious earworm material. At times it’s rather mainstream for my tastes (and I’m not usually a fan of musicals at all) but I thoroughly enjoyed all the songs and performances here. The plot could be described as thin, but the dialogue between the characters is what makes it brilliant and joyous to watch. The truth is that it's superbly written and performed all round. I  can’t wait to see where they take this next. Hopefully they’ll storm it at the Edinburgh festival this year in the name of Nottingham.

Read an interview with Ben Welch and Nic Harvey
Mrs Green on Tumblr