This review was originally written for The Public Review.
If a night out at the theatre resembles a BBC Friday night sitcom, would people still go out to the theatre? To answer this question, first let’s look at the play. This is a family which has fallen on hard times when the father Martin loses his job and his wife has to go to work as a phone sex provider. Meanwhile, their daughter is getting married and their son rather fancies the girl in the charity shop. So far, so ordinary.
Unfortunately, this is as dramatic as the play gets as all the little spikes of potential trouble are soon smothered with a hug and “I love you” with one another and the play moves on to the next little trouble. The father does not seem to be that concerned with the loss of his job apart from a short moan about it; his wife rather enjoys her phone sex and the family does not object to it a great deal and she makes enough money to pay for the wedding. The wait for drama goes on but it never comes. The writer, Roger Goldsmith has everything filtered and polished till it is squeaky clean and ends up being some family entertainment which you might see on pre-watershed television, barring a few unnecessary swear words.
Once it is treated as a staged sitcom, this play makes more sense. The scenes are short as the front room and kitchen set is occupied by various different characters for their interactions and the light soon fades out for the next scene. The characters are likable and it is lovely to see them getting on so well with each other. There are broad jokes which are at best mildly amusing but they have the benefit of not trying too hard. This play is something pleasant and inoffensive to have in the background whilst having glass of wine at home. Which brings us to the original question, is it necessary to have what is essentially a sitcom script without great jokes and ends with a heartwarming series finale type ending on stage? And without the benefit of short, 30 minutes episodes and can be switched off at any time? The answer will have to be no.
The production is well put together with good performances from the cast. Annie L Cooper is excellent as the mother Ruth who has a natural charm and a relaxed demeanor on stage and really brings the rest of the characters together. Mark Savage as Martin brings just enough lightness to his grumpiness to avoid comparison with Ben Harper from My Family. Hence, despite the identity crisis of the play, it is a gentle and unchallenging evening at the theatre if there is nothing better on the television at home.