THIS IS MY FAMILY
by Tim Firth.
New Wolsey Theatre Civic Drive IP1 2AS 11-15 November 2014.
Tue 7pm Wed-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr25min One interval.
TICKETS: 01473 295900.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 October at Royal & Derngate (Royal auditorium) Northampton..
A family well worth paying a visit.
It’s no surprise to recall writer of this show’s words and tunes, Tim Firth, cut his dramatic teeth at Alan Ayckbourn’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, which staged his early plays Neville’s Island and The End of the Food Chain. For Firth’s 2013 musical is set in very Ayckbourn-like territory. All the characters are White and middle-class – certainly as incarnated in Daniel Evans’ production for Sheffield Theatres, which reflects the free-flowing, fragmentary experience of family life.
And despite the three generations represented from eve-of-dementia grandmother May to teenage Nicky and her older brother, temporary Goth and malcontent Matt, the main preoccupations are those of the middle, middle-aged generation of parents Yvonne and – particularly – father Steve.
It’s young Nicky who precipitates matters by winning a family holiday to go anywhere in the world. It’s her essay which provokes repeated repetition of the words announcing by a memorable theme in Firth’s attractive score for “This is My Family” – one where continuing music doesn’t mean perpetual, tune-dried recitative
Though the idea of repeating something is elsewhere a warning of dementia, in the mouth of Evelyn Hoskyns’ bright early teenager Nicky the words are a repeated fanfare of hope. Nicky’s fascination with how her parents met determines where the prize holiday is taken – a place that’s the same, yet not now the same, as where Steve and Yvonne first saw each other.
Flashback moments to their young selves’ awkward meeting contrast the present of Yvonne’s anxiety and resilience, caught in Clare Burt’s effortful cheer, or the middle-aged anxiety of Bill Champion’s Steve, obsessed with the difference between 39 and 41, and fighting youth’s vanishing with accident-laden attempts at free-walking and skate boarding.
Surly in add-on black, Terence Keeley’s Matt goes through the pains of youth and unhappy love before re-integrating with the family that evidently means so much to his sister. The interplay between these, with Marjorie Yates’ May slightly separate in the action, as she’s beginning to be in her mind – something Yates delicately encapsulates – and Rachel Lumberg’s Sian breezing in occasionally on the friendly fringe – makes for an attractively individual piece.
Nicky: Evelyn Hoskyns.
Steve: Bill Champion.
Yvonne: Clare Burt.
Matt: Terence Keeley.
May: Marjorie Yates.
Sian: Rachel Lumberg.
Director: Daniel Evans.
Designer: Richard Kent.
Lighting: Davis Plater.
Sound: Nick Greenhill.
Musical Director: Caroline Humphrs.
Movement: Lucy Hind.
Associate director: Jonathan O’Boyle.
Assistant director: Harry Williams.
Assistant Musical director: Toby Higgins.