Lawn Wars by Nick Warburton

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BBC Radio 4, 12 January 2009
A play about suburbia and cricket, Lawn Wars concerns Alice (Anna Calder-Marshall), a single woman for whom maintaining her garden had become too much of a chore. She engages a gardener, Anthony (Richard Johnson), an older man of indeterminate age who seems reliable, if a little short on horticultural knowledge. This provides cause for concern for Alice's brother Rob (Robert Daws) who wants to move his family into Alice's house and put her in his poky little semi-detached with its postage-stamp sized garden. As the action progresses, it emerges that Anthony is not a gardener at all, but a cricket fanatic who converts Alice's garden into an impromptu cricket pitch (complete with run-up in the flower-bed), allowing him to practise his off-breaks. Quite naturally Alice is appalled by the idea, but stops short of firing Anthony even though Rob urges her to do so. She begins to sympathize with Anthony - a lonely single man who has been trying to produce the perfect off-break ever since he was twelve years old. His father had seen Jim Laker taking nineteen wickets in the famous Old Trafford Test Match of 1956, and had encouraged his son to follow Laker's example. Sadly it was not to be - despite regular practice Anthony has never played a competitive game of cricket. Alice goes to the library, borrows a copy of Sir Donald Bradman's Art of Cricket and begins to coach him. Meanwhile Rob, appalled by his sister's apparent infatuation with a rogue, issues a challenge which Alice willingly accepts; he will take on Anthony in a single-wicket competition with Alice's house as the prize. If Rob wins, he will move in; if he loses, he will renounce all claim to it. The result is never in doubt: Anthony continues to practice his bowling in Alice's garden while Rob returns to his suburban rabbit-hutch a sadder, if hardly a wiser man.
Lawn Wars showed how the art of bowling is essentially an issue of mind over matter. While everyone may acquire the technique of delivering an off-break, they might not be able to take wickets. Batsmen need to be thought out as well as bowled out. Anthony fails to understand this, and it is the non-cricketer Alice who teaches him. Richard Johnson and Anna Calder-Marshall clearly enjoyed themselves in their roles, while Daws's characterisation of Rob brought back memories of the actor's famous television performance as Roger Dervish in Outside Edge. The play - a worthy sequel to Warburton's earlier cricketing work about W.G.Grace (also broadcast in the Afternoon Play slot) - was directed by Peter Kavanagh.

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