DERBY Playhouse's studio Theatre resembles an abattoir for the premier of Mark Chatterton's Ham last Friday. Butchers knives and cleavers hang from meat hooks above the audience and various farmyard animals are depicted with blood and guts spewing from their sides. And it was the audience that left with split side - from laughing at the gag-a-minute show. Set in a butcher's shop, the play is set around the lives of the three staff.

Claude Close is excellent as the stereotypical "big friendly butcher" but could change to a mean, roaring animal, wielding cleavers at an instant.
Jay is played by Paul Rider - the cheeky jack-the-lad character - who charms the crowd with his wit and 'I wanna be a rock star image.

But the real star is Mark Letheren as Paul - a naive college student who "doesn't like football" and can't look at a piece of meat without seeing fluffy lambs. His nervous delivery has the audience in stitches and his singing voice sends shivers down the spine in solos and a duet with Teresa Gallagher as Carol - Bob's wife. Ham is a hit - the gore is mostly left to the imagination - although it is not for the faint hearted.

Paul Rider, Claude Close and Mark