Aug 17 2023 | By More

★★☆☆☆     Enjoyable

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53): Mon 14 – Sat 19 Aug 2023
Review by Allan Wilson

Hickory by Deleardley Theatre is an enjoyable tale with a flawed tail, of two mice whose short lives are spent using physical labour to drive the mechanism of a cuckoo clock.

The two writers and performers, Elijah Eardley and Ryan De-La-Haye, use comedy, traditional nursery rhymes and a lot of imagination to explore issues of monotony and exploitation in manual work, particularly when threatened by the introduction of new technology.

Ryan De-La-Haye and Elijah Eardley as Tom and Isaac in Hickory. Pic: Deleardley Theatre

Ryan De-La-Haye portrays Tom as a mouse, becoming increasingly cynical and rebellious about his working life sharing shifts cranking a handle to keep the clock running. His partner in work, Isaac, is played by Elijah Eardley as an enthusiastic, energetic mouse, spouting aphorisms, such as ‘exhaustion is just a mindset’.

Both mice are under consideration for the position of supervisor, with responsibility for work scheduling and keeping of records.

Isaac impresses with his energy and references to Cheddar Chads and Halloumi Heroes and becomes supervisor, introducing a revolutionary new working practice – a cup-holder. Presented as an improvement in working conditions, it leads to further exploitation as the mice will be expected to carry on working during breaks.

collective memory

Tom is unhappy with the changes and, contrary to the rules, begins to explore the world outside the clock. He finds a digital watch and realises that humans no longer need the cuckoo clock, posing a threat to the future of the mouse colony.

Two further characters, both played by Nick Tennant, are introduced. Alexander is proud of his role as a toy soldier supporting the cuckoo in the clock, while Bernie is the elderly Head Mouse, to whom Isaac turns for advice when there is a threat of revolt in the face of new technology. Bernie also acts as the keeper of the collective memory of the mice.

Ryan De-La-Haye, Nick Tennant and Elijah Eardley. Pic: Deleardley Theatre

There is a lot of humour in the production, with some parts working better than others. One of the best moments occurs when Bernie speaks of the loss of his three brothers and the tale rapidly turns into the nursery rhyme, Three Blind Mice.

Costumes are very basic – brown dungarees, toy mouse ears and drawn-on whiskers for the mice, and an old military uniform for the toy soldier (covered with a grey cloak and hood when Tennant is playing Bernie). The set is minimalist, consisting of a chair and a small stand that becomes a cup holder. It is a pity that the budget did not extend to a crank handle, to give a better indication of how tiring the work of the mice might be, rather than the characters just miming the winding motion.

improbable plot twist

The production would have benefitted hugely from the input of a director to encourage the team to focus on the purpose and audience for the play.

It is odd that a play about mice, loosely based on a couple of nursery rhymes, has a 16+ age rating, presumably on the basis of some swearing. A director might also have encouraged the writers to have another look at the introduction of a very improbable plot twist resulting in an unsatisfactory ending.

Hickory has clearly been a labour of love for the creators, with humour and some interesting ideas, but the obvious financial constraints have impacted on the end product.

Running time: 50 minutes (no interval)
TheSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Stevenson Theatre), Nicolson Street, EH8 9DW (Venue 53)
Monday 14 – Saturday 19 August 2023
Daily: 11.05am.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Deleardley Theatre Facebook: @DeleardlyTheatre



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