Play for Laughs

By Louis Barfe

Blurb writing is a delicate balance. The programme must be sold without giving too much away. sometimes, though, a listing can be actively off-putting. if I’d seen the blurb for Christine Entwisle's afternoon drama idle hands (r4, weekdays, 2.15pm), I’d probably have given it a swerve, as indeed I do to most of the productions in this strand.

It was billed as a ‘pitch black comedy’ and I feared I’d be assailed by 45 minutes of shock for shock’s sake. Thankfully, by dint of leaving the kitchen radio on all day, I caught a few minutes of it and found myself roaring with laughter. I listened via iPlayer while attempting to tidy my office, and it sped a grim task along with considerable brio.

The bit that convinced me I would benefit from hearing the whole play was the glorious sue Johnston describing Peppa Pig as looking like a gentleman’s below- waist arrangement. she was playing the adventurous mum of Entwisle's lead character, a newly redundant 50-something bank clerk who develops an infatuation for her young Scottish postman, played by Scott Hoatson. To snare her man, she affects an interest in football and sabotage’s a local pub’s big- screen facilities so he can only watch a big game at her house. To prepare for the event, she takes slimming tablets and builds an inanimate replica
of her inamorato.

Robust, bawdy, humane, sympathetic, but most of all funny, idle hands is about a person who fears life has passed her by, and who, in trying to grasp the nettle, merely grabs the wrong end of the stick and beats herself around the head with it. The play, directed in Glasgow by Kirsty Williams, ends not entirely happily, but with a glimmer of hope and redemption. it put me in mind of Alan Bennett’s A Woman of No Importance from the Talking heads series. Praise indeed.