A Parson’s Tale is an enthralling one-man play, written by Christopher Owen, which toured the UK and the Gulf states between 1995 & 2004 at over 100 venues. This entertaining comedy, set in 1895 England, returns to the UK, now starring Bob Young (The Rochdale Pioneers) as Rev J.T. Smith, and including live musical entertainment from the Northern based Singer/Actor himself!

 

The year is 1895, The Rev J. T. Smith, rector of St. Peter’s, Mulworth has just arrived at the Parish Hall in Norton. It is a very special occasion: the celebration of the rebuilding of the old Bell Tower at St. Peter’s. A guest speaker, the Very Rev. Dean Hole, is expected. Songs are to be sung by Rev Smith’s wife, and by his ex Curate, Mr Rashleigh, now Rector of the parish of Norton. Extracts from Charlotte Bronte are to be performed. Unfortunately, neither Dean Hole, Mr Rashleigh or Mrs Smith have yet arrived .............. But the audience has!

 

Reviews for A Parson's Tale

New Millenium Theatre – Karl Barnsley

I have been trying to catch Bob Young’s one man show A Parsons Tale for a couple of years now. He has been touring it to church and village halls around the north west since Autumn 2012 reaching even as far as Penrith in that time yet the gods of time and money or possibly both of them together have blocked my repeated attempts to catch it. Fortunately, I managed to appease said gods enough to get myself a seat at tonight’s performance at the lovely New Millenium Theatre in Rossendale without the need for an animal sacrifice, which is just as well because my sister is quite attached to Flopsy.

A Parsons Tale is an interesting little piece weaving interesting true to life anecdotes of real pastors and reverends of the 19th century with a well balanced selection of songs in the effort by Reverend Smithto keep the audience entertained while waiting for the guest speaker Dean Hole of Rochester, plus his wife Mrs Smith and his former curate Mr Rashleigh, none of whom turn up and so Reverend Smith is left with no option but to keep the crowd warm for as long as possible the best he can.

While we should of course commend the writing which appears to have been developed with a healthy dose of passion and intelligence, the piece is truly brought to life by the passion and talent of its performer Bob Young who brings out the subtle humour of the piece while exploring the subtexts of his errant wife Mrs Smith’s activism with former curate Mr Rashleigh. To say Young is well suited to this part would be an understatement. Dressed in typical 1895 Reverend clothing Young relishes the opportunity this piece gives him to demonstrate an almost perfect level of clarity in his voice as well as producing very interesting and subtle physical movements and moments which all in all made him very watchable indeed.

I usually try to find some point of constructive feedback on shows I see, however without sounding sychophantic (which I’m not!) there is nothing I can actually say which could be considered to improve the show. It works as it is. The show is a sound, well crafted piece which works well in all areas. The real asset this piece has, beyond a performer who has a real belief in the work, is that it has chosen its audience so well. By touring to church halls and small venues in small towns A Parsons Tale taps into a seemingly forgotten audience who have no interest in the radical and dare I say it risky fair on offer in other parts. A Parsons Tale offered a refreshingly more relaxed yet pleasant evenings entertainment which I would recommend to anybody if that is what you are looking for.

While I’m not sure where the show is headed to next this show is pretty much on permanent tour so keep an eye out for it in your area.

Smiths Restaurant, 28 October 2015

Review by Andrew Nevill

It’s 1895. Rev Smith of St Peter’s, Mulworth is at Norton Parish Hall to officiate at the celebration of the rebuilding of St Peter’s bell tower. Unfortunately, the expected special guests are being very tardy and Rev Smith attempts to fill in until they arrive if they ever do.

That’s the premise behind A Parsons Tale, the latest show to be featured in Smiths’ Bite Size Theatre. Things started even before the show proper got underway; the audience entering the performance space to find a portable harmonium and wooden side table with Smiths own wooden chairs arrayed before them. And on the door, welcoming the parishioners, Mrs Fletcher, in a fabulous Victorian gown. It felt

like you were actually stepping into a Victorian era parish hall. Bob Young as Reverend Smith was every inch the Victorian country vicar with his silver hair and beard, dressed all in black complete with waistcoat and pocket watch. If every priest possessed his warm tones and varied delivery the Church of England wouldn’t have its current dwindling attendance problem.

In a one man show that one man needs to get and keep the audience’s attention and Young certainly did that. He was helped by Christopher Owen’s clever and witty script, which launches into an array of stories, anecdotes, songs and poems, as the good Reverend desperately tries to entertain his audience in lieu of the absent luminaries. Particular highlights for me were the hilarious recitation from Charlotte Bronte and William Coombe’s lovely poem about a curate. There was also some audience participation, the look on one person’s face as she was asked ‘Can you play harmonium?’ was priceless. Mostly gently humorous but with a few laugh out loud moments (that recitation) the piece also touched on some of the serious issues of the day - child labour, the debate over Darwin and the wholescale migration from country to town – adding some not unwelcome food for thought.

I later heard another audience member call Young’s performance a tour-de-force and I’d have to agree – if only for remembering all the script! But throw in all the varied things he had to - act, perform readings, play the harmonium (in deliberately amateur fashion) and sing - then that plaudit is definitely earned. But I must not end without a word for the lovely Brenda Walker, whose Mrs Fletcher was a delightful cameo that added to a fine piece of entertainment.