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Theatre Review: Holes at Nottingham Playhouse

17 April 18 words: Jared Wilson

Live music, scary puppets and breath-taking scenery; Holes had it all...

Holes is based on a multi-award-winning young adults novel by Louis Sachar. This isn’t the first adaptation of it, 2003 saw a live action Disney film released starring Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette and Shia LaBeouf. 

The play centres around a character called Stanley Yelnets, played by Chris Ashby. He’s lived a rough life, in a family with generations of bad luck attached to them. Not only that, he also has a weird palindromic name.

Stanley gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time with a pair of trainers that belonged to a famous basketball player. He didn’t steal them, but it looks obvious to everyone else that he did. Then just before he’s sent to jail he gets offered a choice of whether to serve hard time in a US jail or instead become part of a new reform project called Camp Green Lake instead. He chooses the latter.

There’s nothing green about Camp Green Lake. It’s in the middle of the desert and Stanley’s job is to dig a new hole every day that is five foot wide and deep. He and his fellow inmates there are simply told the holes are being dug to build character. But we soon realise there’s more to it than that. 

Camp Green Lake is run by the Warden (Kacey Ainsworth, who famously played Little Mo in Eastenders from 2000-2006). Alongside her in her gang of cronies are Mr Sir (John Elkington) and Mr Pendanski (Edward Harrison). Stanley’s fellow prisoners at the camp include X-Ray (Anmar Duffus), Magnet (Safiyya Ingar), Zero (Pepter Lunkuse) and Armpit (Henry Mettle). Elizabeth Twells (who plays about five characters including gunslinger Kissing Kate Hardwick) and Greg Lockett (also five characters including Sam) complete an excellent ensemble cast.

As the story unfolds we end up learning a lot more about Stanley and his family history, as well as the past of some of the other characters. And as the desert landscape takes its toll, the performers start to come into their own. 

Charming, absorbing and entertaining; this is a lovely play to take your kids along to and it’s no surprise that it’s been a big hit over the Easter holidays. Some of the puppetry in it is excellent too with snakes and lizards dotted around all over the place. 

Holes is showing at Nottingham Playhouse from Saturday 31 March – Sunday 22 April 2018

Nottingham Playhouse website

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