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Cabbages : Inkyfingers Theatre Company

cabbages from inky fingers theatre companyCabbages From Inkyfingers Theatre Company
Reviewed By Roy Gray
Photos by Ruth Tuck ©2006

The Geeks of Yesteryear

Who were the geeks of the 1950s? For Lawrence Ghorra and Mark Winstanley, writers of Cabbages which ran from 14th-18th February 2006 at Manchester’s Contact Theatre they were the librarians.

This is horror in the asylum as Dr Spinoza, the self-proclaimed genius psychiatrist in charge of Ravenscroft Mental Asylum, decides librarians are the key to world domination. They hold the world’s knowledge and he intends to hold them.

In the park outside that institution two librarians Geoffrey Ramsbottom, a clich√© naive trainee, and his fully qualified co-worker, Audrey, are courting. Audrey suddenly disappears in the midst of declaring her admiration for Geoff’s “natural flair for the Dewey System”. One act later two detectives are accusing Geoffrey of murder. His denials are worthless because he can’t remember what did happen. So what’s to do but ship him to Ravenscroft. Will he find Audrey? Can a librarian’s innate knowledge of Dewey Classification Numbers help resist the evil machinations of the megalomaniac Dr Spinoza? At first it seems so but Dr Spinoza has reserved at least one further horrible assault on the mind of the librarian, picture books!

cabbages from inky fingers theatre on stage

The fifties, the time of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ and the decade of lithium, brain washing, sleep deprivation, hypnotism, locking prisoners in mental asylums, meals in pills, tranquillisers plus electric shock treatment and Dr Spinoza wields them all.

Joe Atack had the best lines as that self-deluding, Napoleon admiring, doctor and played the part brilliantly; his very tall, almost gaunt, frame along with a deliberate stilted diction, in a dry quiet, soft but menacing voice made his ambitions seem very credible.

In the fifties Donald Pleasance had the epitome of evil voices and it made him champion of memorable horror and other movie villains in the mad scientist/doctor mould. I foresee a similar career for Joe Atack if he is happy to be so typecast.

The actors were generally good but some shouted at times. Zoe Nicholas, as Nurse Hart, cleverly expressed her unrequited passion for Dr Spinoza. Hazel Earle, doubling up as Nurse Clench and Audrey, was nicely geekish, dominant, blank and sexy as the plot unfolded. Kenan Ali did well as Geoffrey, the librarian who knows his Dewey numbers but little else.

cabbages from inky fingers theatre on stage

Director, Alan Pattison’s production was spare and mostly effective but the lighting needed to be snappier, the waits between scenes dragged. The asylum inmates all slept standing up, and they did it very well, but it looked as if this was arranged to save on scene changes; beds, bedding or some stage equivalent. Uncomfortable chairs for sleeping could have worked much better and there was opportunity for any resulting scene changes. Cabbages is probably not a great title for a 50s set drama but it’s too late to change.

Inky Fingers production company have UK Arts Council support and use it well so, if they play it again, why not go along?

cabbages from inky fingers theatre on stage


Their focus is to write and produce new plays that make exciting and challenging theatre. Their main aims are to give a platform for new writers in Manchester and the North West (of England), by producing new theatrical events within a diverse range of theatre spaces throughout the UK in order to bring contemporary writing to areas that have not exerienced it before.

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