A winner in the race to reach Monte Carlo

NTC  Rallying Round
NTC Rallying Round

Rallying Round, by Stewart Howson, Northumberland Theatre Company, Playhouse Studio, Sunday

There are plenty of excuses not to leave the comfort of your own home to venture into town on a chilly Sunday night in winter.

But those who made the effort at the weekend were treated to a first-rate evening of live entertainment.

Who needs X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing when you have the NTC to keep you amused? Not only was their latest show witty and thought-provoking, there were even a couple of songs and a few nifty dance moves thrown in for good measure.

Rallying Round was written by and starred Stewart Howson, stalwart of the NTC and veteran of TV, film and radio drama.

He was supported by just one other actor – Umar Ahmed, who is heading for the Edinburgh Fringe in his own play, How to Make a Killing in Bollywood.

The production was stripped back, with no flash set, costumes or props and proved that all you need is a strong script and some great acting and an audience will be gripped.

Rallying Round follows Airchie, a rude, cantankerous old soldier with a surprisingly soft centre, on a journey into his past.

He tricks young Mo into accompanying him on a run from Glasgow to Monte Carlo in his 1949 Jowett Javelin, a trip he used to make with his old mate Dougie Fraser, who has just passed away.

They go to relive the crazy times of an adventure first made 50 years previously in 1944 and to scatter Dougie’s ashes. It is a clash of worlds, with Airchie stuck in his ways and Mo desperate to use all mod cons to get to their destination.

But as they progress so they compromise and their attitudes align as their friendship and trust grows.

As a new play, it was a triumph, with plenty of laugh-out-loud sequences interspersed with poignant, reflective moments.

The gags came thick and fast, delivered with aplomb.

Both actors gave convincing performances, Umar calm and assured as the blogging, tweeting cool dude and Stewart as the impatient octogenarian with a few saucy secrets of his own.

I was entertained – it was just a shame that more people hadn’t dragged themselves away from their TV screens to enjoy this theatrical heart-warmer.