Written by Jonathan Hall
Directed by Liz Hume-Dawson
The King's Arms, Salford 11th July 2019
Review by Brian Gorman
You don't necessarily need to be a huge Dr Who fan to enjoy this comedy-drama, but boy does it help! The attention to detail is remarkable, extending to carefully mocked-up VHS cassette covers and fake stage show flyers placed on the audience seats. Jonathan Hall's bittersweet tale of a typical 1990s Dr Who convention is a fun ride, with more than a few surprisingly shocking moments.
Dean Taylor is fantastic as the burned-out, desperate, booze and drug addled writer, treated as a god by adoring fans, but gradually revealing a cynical and predatory nature. Hardcore Dr Who fans will recognise who this character is probably based on (I can think of a couple), and be aware of certain grubby incidents and behaviours witnessed behind Travelodge doors over the years. Lee Petcher hits all the right notes as the overworked convention organiser, keen to supply his star guests with their every need whilst keeping the packed schedule on track, despite (in the context of the story) the late cancellation of 'star attraction' Bonnie Langford (who played the much maligned assistant, Melanie Bush, to Colin Baker's and Sylvester McCoy's Doctors in the 1980s).
Lesley Molony is pitch perfect as ex-assistant Jenny Carpenter, still much aggrieved by her character's complete lack of development (a common complaint from many a Who actress over the years!). Jenny is soon to star in a profit-share production of MacBeth, and is keen to demonstrate her thespian credentials to an audience who only really want her to perform her popular lung-busting scream, and join in with a competition to see how many different ways one can say "What IS it, Doctor?"
Lee Petcher, Luke Perczyk, Liz Hume-Dawson, Lesley Molony, and Dean Taylor
Luke Perczyk is hilarious and affecting as obsessive fan Alan; a young man with a severe lack of social skills, but whose heart is in the right place. Director Liz Hume-Dawson gets the balance between drama and comedy just right, allowing for the belly laughs and the more cringeworthy scenes to sit comfortably together. It would have been very easy to go for all-out farce (Dr Who fans have always been an easy target), or even to explore the opposite end of the spectrum with a serious psychological examination of the perils of fanatical behaviour, and the spiritually demeaning work many a fallen star has to undertake. Thankfully, director Hume-Dawson manages to keep things firmly grounded, and produces a show that entertains without pretension.
Incidentally, after watching the play, I went for a drink in a late Manchester bar, and bumped into Salford-born actor Christopher Eccleston (who played The Doctor back in 2005). He asked me what I'd been to see that night!
Kasterborous In Bolton is a real treat, with an appeal far beyond its target audience.