Skip to main content

Review of This Is My Family by Tim Firth at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is very safe to say that I nearly didn't see This Is My Family. At first glance it wasn't something that appealed to me, a story of a family which sounded like a sitcom made into a musical. Well I wasn't sure. Yes I watched the early years of My Family and for those slightly older 2point4 Children and I wasn't entirely sure whether I desired watching something similar where, heaven forbid, they then broke into song. However my endless need to watch something because its there, coupled with the fact that it was in the wonderful Royal drove me there last evening. I am so, so glad that I did as it turned out to be one of my favourite plays I have seen this year (this was my 56th to give that some context!).

Telling the story of 13 year old Nicky (Evelyn Hoskins) and her tales/woes of her family and her winning of a family holiday for describing said family is the simple grounding for the play. As a chain reaction to that slight story the play weaves a stunning happy/sad/happy tale that everyone (and I think I really mean everyone) will be familiar with. This family of six will resonant in some way, be it the siblings conflict, the married couple, or the health of mother/granny. There is something which will be happy or slightly sad for all.

Holding the whole piece together is Hoskins, who is one of the most convincing 13 year olds you could imagine (played by a 26 year old!). She is captivating from her first appearance and moves effortlessly from speech to singing, with the most clear and solid of voice. Her parents Steve (Bill Champion) and Yvonne (Clare Burt) are equally a delight. Champion "Last Man Standing" is the typical man in mid-life crisis, attempting things at 11:30pm which he really shouldn't be and Burt the put upon mother worried about the impending departing of her offspring. They are both wonderful, particularly when performing together. Marjorie Yates as May, Steve's mother is quietly poetic as the ageing and religious elder lady. The slow forming of dementia performed, yes sadly, but oddly warmly, particularly with the repeating of that song that she just can't quite remember. These scenes are the most emotional of the play, but are never maudlin, just sweetly sorrowful. The opposite of this is the occasional arrival of the bombastic Rachel Lumberg as aunt Sian. The over the top relative with the voice command car and constant sexual need. She reaches her climax with the raunchy number that manages to couple those together, providing one of the funniest songs of the play. Perhaps most surprising of all however is Terence Keeley as Nicky's goth brother Matt, who after his indecipherable teen exchanges in the first act becomes a total revelation in the second as his own personal story evolves.

Not one of the cast is ever short of superb and indeed not one of musical debutant, Tim Firth's songs are a let down. Be they uplifting, like the marvellous title song "This Is My Family" or moving like the "Same Thing Twice", they all fit together solidly, moving effortlessly from speech to song with strong one liners in between. The set from Richard Kent is a wonderful backdrop to the delightful story. An oversize Wendy house, cleverly adapted throughout, especially in the second act. Music is provided on-stage in one corner (effectively in the front porch of the house) and is strong and jolly. Musical director Caroline Humphris (also on keyboard) in control at all times of her six piece group (including an accordionist!).

The whole production was a delight and so cleverly designed. Simple little things like the use of the Bop It toy as the steering wheel for the car drives (always hilarious scenes) coupled with a lovely neat little trick for the lake scene, made the whole production sweet, uplifting, funny, and heart-warming in every way you could possibly want. There truly isn't a way to have a better feel good evening in Northampton this week and I for one am so glad that I went. You should too.

«««««


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 21st October, 2014 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

This Is My Family runs at the Royal & Derngate (Royal) until Saturday 25th October, 2014 before touring to Coventry, Liverpool and Ipswich.

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/ and for touring locations at: http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/this-is-my-family-14/



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Cilla - The Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I have to start with a confession dear reader, what I know about Cilla Black can pretty much be written on the back of the Derngate ticket that I clutched on entering the theatre (and that allows for the advert on the back). I have heard a couple of her tunes of course (more than once) and confess, once again, that I generally didn't like what I heard. I think it's clear that with her natural raw form and voice, "a diamond in the rough" as Brian Epstein, her eventual manager describes her, she a performer that you either love or generally, not hate as such, but perhaps just dislike. I fall in the latter. Curiously as I a forty-year-old, I also don't even fall into the Cilla of hit television either, being a BBC viewing family, I never saw her on TV much when I was growing up.

So, coming almost totally fresh to the world of Cilla, it was a little comforting that for the first act, much of the world of Cilla - The Musical revolves not just around star building Cil…

Review of Woman In Mind by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I like Alan Ayckbourn, I may only have seen a few of his vast array of plays previously, but all have been a delight, often crazy yes, but constantly funny, and especially in the second act spiralling often into just on the very edge of believable nonsense. With Woman In Mind, acknowledged by many as one of his finest works, my own personal jury is very much out on whether I liked it or not.
What was very good, mostly, however, were the performances, most especially the two that we are introduced to at the very beginning. The prostrate Susan (Nicola Osborne), with sinisterly lurking rake alongside her, and the bag struggling doctor, Bill (John Myhill).
Nicola Osborne has the unenviable task in this play of never leaving the stage, a feat in itself. Add to this the constant weaving of the character's world (more on this later), and you have a role featuring some significant challenge, one that Osborne ably surmounts. I once described Osborne as a "safe pair of hands" in …

Press launch of Sting's The Last Ship at Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton

On Friday 16th February 2018, I attended the official press launch of The Last Ship. In attendance were the writer of the show, Sting, and cast members for the 2018 UK tour Richard Fleeshman, Charlie Hardwick and Joe McGann, with musical support from Rob Mathes.

During the event, opened entertainingly by producer Karl Sydow, Sting and the cast members performed seven of the songs from the show: The Last Ship (Sting), Dead Man's Boots (Sting and Fleeshman), Sail Away (Hardwick), The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance (Fleeshman), What Say You Meg? (Fleeshman) and What Have You Got? (Sting and cast).

Each of these songs showed us a great background to the evocative tale that The Last Ship tells, of a community under attack as its crucial shipbuilding industry begins to fail. The performers and Sting himself delivered the songs with huge passion, despite, as Sting himself commented, the earnestness of the hour, with the event beginning at 10 am.

The Last Ship was initially inspired …