by Alan Ayckbourn.

Coliseum Theatre Fairbottom Street OL1 3SW To 30 March 2013.
Tue-Thu; Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 624 2829.
Review: Stoon 16 March 2013.

Playwright dips toe into pool of morality; barely causes a ripple.
Even when premiering in 2003, Sugar Daddies was more lauded for its honourable intention to function as a kaleidoscopic view of a moral maze than for ensuing pleasures en route to navigating those leafy hedgerows of twisted humanity.

Time can be a great healer but not here; ten years on it feels corked.

I can live with the ‘happy families’ endgame, an effective cop out which undermines the exercise. What irks is Ayckbourn’s need to observe, over-parody and embellish on every available front, often for base comedic value. So we first meet the Sugar Daddy dressed as Santa Claus (see the link?). Even a serious instance of Ridley-esque mobile ’phone misuse is a case of Carry On Up The Khyber – further lightened by its subsequent ringing.

Big Sister Chloe is a low achiever in a hi-powered media world, so naturally brings her work home (cue call from important client) but she’s way over-subservient in manner to convince. She likes wine but surely there’d be more than a single bottle in her rack. Her blind devotion to a chancer boyfriend who’s a fully paid-up subscriber to Lad’s Bible is another excess. Ditto the author’s illustrations of txt spk which render the optician’s final eye-test board Chaucerian.

The retired Met cop sports an eye patch for a cheap later laugh, the ‘Changing Rooms’ element is an outtake ahead of its time and tarty Charmaine’s high-heeled totterings make Bet Lynch worthy of greater tribute than her mere recent Desert Island Discs’ recognition. The game cast remain plucky to a feather but deserve better.

Fresh directorial eyes could have trimmed the distracting fluff, forged a more focused affair and upped the seedy and sinister ante but veteran Ayckbourn director Robin Herford doesn’t stray, giving rise to a spoon-fed dog with the original fleas.

Chloe: Maeve Larkin.
Charmaine: Heather Phoenix.
Sasha: Sarah Vezmar.
Val: Paul Webster.
Ashley: Christopher Wilkinson.

Director: Robin Herford.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Lorna Munden.

2013-03-24 22:16:24

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