IT is easy to see while watching The Exchange why writer-director Phillip Aughey's comedy about two retired country blokes who spend their days drinking in a small-town pub has been an audience-pleaser for a decade.

Loquacious ex-shearer Toby and quieter former boundary rider Cyril turn virtually all the topics in their conversations, from mice plagues to rainfall and vague memories of people they once knew, into amusing arguments that have the ring of truth. Young barman Ron, still viewed as a newcomer to the town after 12 months, listens to their wrangling and tries to resolve their frequent arguments as to whose shout it is, and occasionally falls deep in thought about his own, unstated problems.

I first saw The Exchange in a hotel lounge nine years ago and it has lost none of its charm or truth. The Newcastle Playhouse season is its first in a theatre auditorium after more than 100 pub and club performances and it is just as engaging in a formal theatre space.

The sparks fly between Brad Burgess's Toby and Aughey's Cyril, and Matt McFarlane's introspective Ron has those watching wondering what is going through his mind as he patiently puts up with the two geezers' antics. Leof Kingsford-Smith is Toby and Greg Gorton is Ron at some performances.