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Time Out
Arts Theatre

Poetic Tales of the Underworld

Until we get a full blown verse drama revival this powerful curio is sure to turn some heads. Paul Sellar’s verse monologue gives a surprising dimension to what would otherwise be a straightforward underworld shocker. When Bobby Tops loses spectacularly to Big Ron in the 1978 World Professional Darts Championship, his young son Jack suspects something’s up. Ten years later Bobby loses again to Ron in an expensive backroom rematch, and Jack goes to work to pay off his old man’s debts, but only gets himself into worse trouble.

In Yvonne McDevitt’s strikingly designed production, Jonathan Moore holds the stage as Jack sitting on a bizarre throne that looks like a pool lounger crossed with an electric chair. His menacing delivery suits Sellar’s tales of villainy – “a screwdriver and a fiver and they’d do you in their sleep” – and the darts matches and horse races lend themselves to tense poetic commentary. Elsewhere, though, the rhymes can be a bit Pam Ayres, and Michael Nyman’s original music amounts to little more than a few dozen notes. Intriguing and rewarding, nonetheless.

Jonathan Gibbs