SMACK FAMILY ROBINSON
by Richard Bean.
Rose Theatre 24-26 High Street KT1 1HL To 20 April 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 11 Apr 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1pm), 18 Apr 7.30pm (+ Touch Tour 6pm).
BSL Signed 19 Apr..
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 08444 821556.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 April.
All mod cons in this Kingston comedy.
Just over 200 years ago the instructional novel known as Swiss Family Robinson depicted a family marooned on an island constructing an orderly and moral life there.
The island Richard Bean creates in this new version of his play, first seen in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2003, is Kingston itself, home of the Rose. And he’s converted the Swiss pastor’s family into materially wealthy drug dealers, whose activities help maintain a stable community.
Around are shark-infested boroughs of inferior people. No drugs are on view; these are simply hard-working people. Five short scenes in the first act introduce father Gavin, as straight a chav as you could find, played by Keith Allen in expert detail, an apparently effortless characterisation, matched by Denise Welch as glamorous, blingy wife Catherine. A nicer pair of neighbours in a taste-free, materially wealthy environment it would be hard to imagine.
Not a hint of crime, not an iota of violence, just the same minor frustrations as anyone in a similar environment created by Willy Russell or Mike Leigh might have, and with the same flashes of wit that light-up playwright Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors, including good jokes about penguins and carpets.
Richard Wilson’s production highlights the comic value of these scenes, with visual jokes which can seem to try too hard at being funny. Then, after the interval, the problems merge. They lead to ructions and retaliations within the family, sexual and drug sensations begin to seem more seamy, and the most marginal family member moves to the centre.
Bean’s conclusion is dodgy. Not impossible, but over-convenient and not developing organically from what’s happened before. Until then, the first act’s comedy is neatly balanced by the post-interval plotting and the sense of things going awry as chickens come home to roost.
There could hardly be a better opportunity for this dystopian mob to flourish than Wilson’s smooth-flowing production. Allen and Welch have an innocence in their lifestyle, shared by their sons, Matthew Wilson’s smiling, stood-to-attention Robert and Harry Melling’s quiet yet plotting Sean, while Kate Lamb’s Cora turns out briskly resourceful when her moment comes.
Gavin Robinson: Keith Allen.
Catherine Robinson: Denise Welch.
Robert Robinson: Matthew Wilson.
Sean Robinson: Harry Melling.
Cora Robinson: Kate Lamb.
Director: Richard Wilson.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: David Starmer.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Arabella Weir.