If timing really is the key, never was it more crucial to get the timing right than in this case. Such clever writing from Tim Firth, who ignores the rule of punctuation so that the song lyrics staccato and andante away, so to make subtle exchanges with the dialogue; allowing the story to unfold and roll along nicely.
No arguing that Director, Daniel Evans achieves so much here, but the musical direction of Caroline Humphris provides the centre pinning. Cast members, perfect in their individual roles as members of one family, exercise great memory work and vocal skills. Combine these talents with that of the musicians, plus an expert production team, and you have the makings of a great show.
We meet family members through the wide eyes and sprightly song of a young schoolgirl called Nicky. This is Nicky’s family. I am a sucker for family and for exploring peoples’ positioning within, and this new musical does just that. It is insightful, respectful, funny and poignant. It is all those things and often at the same time. Sentimentality turns a little schmaltzy in Act II, and I was trying to fight back tears because I recognised this was happening. I wasn’t crying because I was particularly sad; it is just that I connected with the storylines on many levels.
The laughs are the smiley kind of affirmations one makes to oneself, and there is plenty of smiling to be had. The humour is truly British. Nicky’s well meaning dad, Steve, tries but he botches things and he has that kind of rabbit in the headlight about him. His mother, May, has dementia creeping on and Steve is burying his fears deep within. Wife, Yvonne, is loyal and protective of the nuclear family so she has her own internal battle, especially when it comes to May. Basically Steve and Yvonne are worrying over those concerning matters that come from being members of the sandwich generation.
A favourite scene features Steve when he is remonstrating about sister-in-law, Sian’s latest squeeze, Dave (Dave never actually appears). But overall, my hand clapping is at its most exuberant for Terence Keeley, who plays the Matt character. When Matt is not withdrawn and mumbling, he is displaying other teenage stereotypical behaviour. Keeley has attention grabbing qualities.
This new musical is definitely a mainstay for main stage.
At The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until Saturday 01 November
Reviewer, Debra Hall attended Press Night showing at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Tuesday 28 October 7.45 pm
Review is also published at Remotegoat here
Nicky – Evelyn Hoskins
Steve – Bill Champion
May – Marjorie Yates
Yvonne – Clare Burt
Sian – Rachel Lumberg
Matt – Terence Keeley