The Gravediggers (2 stars)

This article is from 2009.

The title may sound sombre but there’s little in the action of Charley Miles’ play that resembles the funereal – except, perhaps, its pace. It recreates the slow rhythm of daily life in a small Yorkshire town far too accurately, encasing the play in a sleepy mid-afternoon feel from which it’s difficult to awaken.

Gravediggers John and Doug take on new recruit Freddie, whose hyperactive behaviour shatters their quiet, regimented lifestyle. Their fumbling interactions with local characters, including a much-admired female vicar and the friendly neighbourhood goth, has a quaint, Midsomer Murders-like atmosphere to it, albeit without the lurking criminals.

There are some sound performances here from the cast of 17- and 18-year olds, in particular Henry Hawkesworth as the humble John and Humphrey McColl’s gnarled, ageing Doug, who is responsible for many of the play’s well-timed comic moments. But its folksy charm needs more animation and the script’s failure to develop an engaging plot with convincing relationships makes this a largely unfulfilling 80 minutes of theatre - though its witty end comes as some compensation.

The Spaces @ The Royal College of Surgeons, 0845 508 8515, until 29 Aug (not 23), 12.35pm or 3.05pm, £6 (£5).


  • 2 stars

Award-winning playwright's quirky, original comedy premieres with two members of the National Youth Theatre. Follow the eccentric lives of 'The Gravediggers' - with village melodramas, WI politics, goths, ceilidhs and exhumations, there's something for everyone aged10 - 100!

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