Snake In The Grass

Previewed 12 October 1997, Opened 13 October 1997, Closed 3 November 1997 at the Old Vic Theatre

Roy MacGregor's new play Snake In The Grass in London starring John Normington and Kevin Whateley for eight performances only

"There's this thing roaming around the world looking for you. Your very own agent of death. And one day you're going to meet it." Edward Sliddon, pillar of the community and leading light of the Hazlitt Heath choral society, enjoys a saintly reputation and the admiration of his peers. Until Ray Lucas returns to town and the elderly music teacher is forced to confront an unthinkable, thirty-year-old secret.

Snake in the Grass illustrates the destructive power of an ugly truth in a world of choir practice, freemasons and net-curtain conformity.

The cast features John Normington as 'Edward Sliddon' and Kevin Whateley as 'Ray Lucas' with Greg Hicks, Trevor Cooper and Saira Todd. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole with designs by Es Devlin.

Presented in repertory by The Peter Hall Company at the Old Vic Theatre. Eight performances only! Sunday 12 October at 8.00pm; Monday 13 October at 7.30pm; Sunday 19 October at 8.00pm; Monday 20 October at 7.30pm; Sunday 28 October at 8.00pm; Monday 27 October at 7.30pm; Sunday 2 November at 8.00pm; and Monday 3 November at 7.30pm.

"A market town music master, Edward Sliddon (John Normington), is preparing the amateur choir for a performance of Haydn's The Creation in the Town Hall. Dominic Dromgoole's riveting production of some patchy material begins with this agreeable scene on a stage of full-throated extras... Kevin Whateley, Sgt Lewis from Inspector Morse, is a new kind of sidekick. More of an in-your-groin-kick. As Sliddon's former protege, Ray Lucas, a chippy drifter with a criminal record, he disrupts a civic ceremony, where Sliddon is being honoured, to spill the beans. He's been got at by the False Memory Syndrome merchants. Or has he? Music may have created a miasma of sensuality transcending mere carnality... MacGregor's last stage play is bumpy and pedestrian. But it has sharp scenes and good moments, and is trying to illuminate problems that post-Freudian psychoanalysis is now inflicting on society. And on new drama." The Daily Mail

"It is difficult to review a play by a writer who has died recently and prematurely, especially when it comes with as fine a testimonial as Dominic Dromgoole has contributed to the Old Vic Theatre programme. There is no doubt that Roy MacGregor was talented and promising. Nor can anybody question his 'large-heartedness and magnanimity'. But his last play, Snake in the Grass, is not just weak on 'polish and finesse', as Dromgoole suggests. Only occasionally does it rise to the challenge of a subject that is at once topical, fashionable and painful... John Normington is a wonderfully sensitive actor, but the play gives him scant opportunity to suggest that there is anything in his psyche but the blithe serenity allegedly felt by the music-loving apparatchiks at Auschwitz. Kevin Whately fares better, and does successfully suggest a wounded, embittered soul; but more sporadically than one might wish... It is still hard to see the play as much more than a compassionate, magnanimous melodrama." The Times

"Sadly, Roy MacGregor died in June without being able to see his third play staged. But, like his earlier works at the Bush, it proves he was a genuine theatrical talent: there's a radical passion in his writing that makes one forgive its technical clumsiness... At times, MacGregor seems unsure what kind of play he is writing. Is it an Ibsenite drama about the hollow pillar of society and the freemasonry of small-town life? Or is it a character-study of a working-class victim who was given a glimpse by his teacher of the glories of musical life and then exploited? The answer is that it is something of both and the two themes don't always mesh. But MacGregor's great virtue is that he demolishes the idiotic myth that we live in a classless society: he shows that small English towns are constructed on layer-cake lines... There are strong performances from John Normington as the Sliddon and Kevin Whately as his nemesis. MacGregor was unafraid of tackling the big issues, which is why his early death is a substantial loss." The Guardian

Snake In The Grass in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 12 October 1997, opened on 13 October 1997 and closed on 3 November 1997