‘There is a lot of me in who Gus is’

Ben Counter performs as trainspotter Gus in a theatrical double bill at The Spring in Havant.
Ben Counter performs as trainspotter Gus in a theatrical double bill at The Spring in Havant.
Katherine Ryan

REVIEW: Katherine Ryan at the Portsmouth Guildhall

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From Wednesday to Saturday The Spring Arts Centre in Havant will stage a performance of two halves from one of Portsmouth’s leading theatre companies – but even the actors are in the dark when it comes to the ending.

HumDrum will stage a double bill of shows starting with Anorak of Fire: The Life and Times of Gus Gascoigne, followed by Deckchairs. But director Caz Gilmore is keeping one secret from most of the company, to be revealed in the final minutes of the opening performance.

‘The whole thing is about twists in the tail, and I think the concept went to my head,’ she says.

Anorak of Fire: The Life and Times of Gus Gascoigne is a solo performance about trainspotting.

Written by Stephen Dinsdale, Anorak of Fire tells the story of Gus – young, enthusiastic and bemused by everything that doesn’t involve trains or spotting them.

‘Crewe Station to a spotter is like Monte Carlo to James Bond,’ Stephen says.

Following successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and the Arts Theatre in London, HumDrum takes the helm of this touching and ironic comedy piece.

For this performance Gus is played by 35-year-old Ben Counter. He says: ‘A monologue is in some respects more intimidating than other acting but it’s also more free.’

He stresses he is no trainspotter himself but adds: ‘I do know some people who are nerds about other things and there is a lot of me in who Gus is.

‘Unless you are interested in something beyond its apparent importance you are missing out. Our brains are supposed to become obsessed with things.’

Deckchairs is a series of brief duologues by Jean McConnell in which women sit and chat by the seaside.

Comprising five sketches – Shoppers, Early Blight, Dancers, Late Frost and Doggies – each sketch is different from the one it follows, covering subjects as diverse as shopaholics, the joys of widowhood and the pain of infidelity.

Director Caz has designed a set that serves double duty for the entire show – the railway track of Anorak of Fire becomes the sandy beach of Deckchairs.

The Deckchairs cast features Lin Warner, Diane Ellis, Janet Hillman and Jane Hartley.

Anorak Of Fire and Deckchairs comes to The Spring Arts Centre in Havant from October 15-18 at 7.30pm, with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets cost £9 (concessions £8) from (023) 9247 2700 or thespring.co.uk