Rehearsal images courtesy of Sandra Fraser 

Black Country Blues at Newhampton Arts Centre, 16th July 2014.

A week-long celebration of all things Black Country was finely illuminated in a humour filled evening delivered by Sandwell based Drama AND SOME. Black Country Blues, written by the company's artistic directors, Suzan Spence and Robert Warrington, was a rich cocktail of wit and invention, Bank's mild and faggots and peas mixing effortlessly with jerk chicken and rum to provide a flavour filled evening of theatrical heat and depth.

The backdrop of Thatcher's eighties served to remind us of the changes the region underwent at the time, robustly illustrated by Greg Hobbs as Vernon, the father of sons Ashley and Peter, whose struggle to come to terms with the new landscape was compounded by his inability to accept everything from his late wife's death to Ashley's choice of girlfriend.

Tom Synnott-Bell was a strong, boisterous and sometimes affectionately cocky Ashley, whose performance contrasted perfectly with the understated persona of Pete. Lee Davies as the undergraduate looking for work demonstrated his character's social unease with deadpan timing.

Cassandra Wiggan and Vanessa Donovan as the sisters Collette and Gina  gave the audience a wonderful insight into the world of Jamaican patois, yet equally and crucially highlighted their journey of integration with the culture of the Black Country. Here there was no girl power or needless sexual innuendo, just two young adult women expressing their concern for each other and their love for both their motherland and their Midlands environment.  

Criscentia Spence gave an excellent cameo as their mother, trying to rediscover her femininity and status whilst keeping a watchful eye on her children. Expertly breaking up each scene with blues guitar breaks was local musician Laurence Hipkiss, and Jessica Heller added an extra dimension to the performance with her skilled visual signing.

Lyn Bellingham