"Promising debut for Velvet Trumpet"
by Andy MOSELEY for remotegoat on 20/07/12

Velvet Trumpet are a new theatre company co-founded by Thomas Jones and Nikolai Ribnikov. On the basis of 'A Model Life' -co-written by Jones and Ribnikov - they have a promising future.

Brian's model shop is closing down after nine years, the result of a change of a landlord and an increase in rent that means Brian can no longer afford to indulge his childhood passion for Hornby trains and model toys. It's the last day and all he needs to do is pack his toys away. His attempts are thwarted by a succession of interruptions, including the manager of the next door charity shop, a cyclist who has an incident with a stationary car, and a railway enthusiast who could be the closest thing to a customer Brian gets. Toby, his assistant, attempts to provide support but finds distractions far too easy to come by as Brian soldiers on through the day.

Jones and Ribnikov have created a great set of characters brought to life by a strong cast. The script combines humour and pathos with characters sympathetically written and never caricatured. There are some wonderfully touching moments where Brian bonds with Ben (excellently played by Richard Houghton Evans) over old model trains, real railway disasters, and childhood pastimes - their geekiness making the moment all the more bittersweet and believable. Similarly when Marie, the charity shop owner, extols the virtues of a Matalan card to persuade Toby to take a job you can't help but care and feel she passionately believes everything she says.

This is a play about people who are never going to change the world, and have no illusions that they will. In style it is similar to 'The Cafe' Ralf Little's Sky sitcom from last year. While it is set on the day the shop closes you get the feeling that these type of things have happened on most days in the shop's history, and this is perhaps where the play falls down slightly. The closure of the shop, and the ending of Brian's dream, are major events, but Brian is resigned to the fate of the shop, and not overly concerned about his future life, for much of the play, and Marie doesn't seem to be mourning its passing in spite of the large amount of her day she spends there. Although the play touches on the destruction of small shops and communities, the shop itself doesn't feel like it's part of a community. It's one man's hobby and there are no regular customers who will feel a hole in their life when it goes.

That said, the play is a comedy and the comedy would suffer if it tried to make grand political statements. As it is, Velvet Trumpet have created a world where you want the shop to stay open and more stories to happen in it, and they are a company to watch out for in the future if you can't make it to this show.

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