Humble Boy, IES at Ilminster Warehouse

FELIX Humble, a theoretical ast­ro­­physicist, could blame his inab­ility to connect to the real world on a total lack of copy from his parents.

Charlotte Jones’s extraordinary play Humble Boy starts on the day Felix comes home to the funeral of his father. Loosely based on Hamlet, the play has Stoppardian and Ayckbournian  moments, but manages to be as suffused with real heartbreak as it is with the summer scent of flowers.

James Humble was aptronymically named, but when he married Flora she took on a name to which she was unsuited. Poor Felix was never cut out for happiness. James was a teacher, a gardener and an apiarist, content with his life and the woman he loved, and his only ambition was to discover and name a new species of bee.

Flora was never satisfied, and made hell of the lives of friends and family as a punishment for her misery.

But this is their eureka moment, as the Humble trio discover peace, of a sort.

It’s an impossible play to describe, but an increasingly brilliant one to see and listen to.  It requires subtle and sensitive direction and virtuosic acting that combines reality and magic realism, intellectual arguments and foul language, pride and humility.

There are few amateur companies that could do it full justice, but at Ilminster Entertainments Society, director Lyn Lockyer has found six actors capable of enveloping an initially confused audience into their world, entertaining them and opening their eyes and minds and sending them out with perhaps a new attitude to life and love and kind patience.

Chris Williamson is the scruffily unloveable Felix, re-stricken with a childhood stutter as the result of his puzzled bereavement. Val Wright uncompromisingly creates a Flora who is a vain, selfish, snobbish bitch, so the denouement is all the more painful.

John McGrouther, that master of comic timing, is George the self-made lover and Kayleigh Partt his wise and delightful daughter.

Jo Neagle is all too recognisable as the devoted and ignored friend, Mercy and Ken Steed the mysterious gardener.

Humble Boy was first performed at the National Theatre in 2001, has stood the test of time and is on its way to becoming a classic of 21st century theatre.   The IES production captures the nuances and brilliance of the play.  See it if you can, until Saturday 25th May.

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