by Simon Moore and Jane Prowse.

Coliseum Theatre Oldham To 1 May.
Tue-Say 7.30-pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 29 April.
BSL Signed 28 April.
TICKETS: 0161 624 2829
thenNew Wolsey Theatre Ipswich 5-22 May.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat 12, 15, 19, 22 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 21 May.
Captioned 20 May.
TICKETS: 01473 295900.

then Haymarket Theatre Basingstoke 26 May-5 June 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 29 May, 3 June 2pm.

TICKETS: 01256 844244.

Runs: 2hr 35min Two intervals.
Review: Stoon 17 April 2010

Friends Reunited with Songs – Definitely add to favourites.
Not a jailbreak, but a 1975 roof-top party held by 5 Hull University students to celebrate completing their degrees. Fast forward to 1980 where they reunite for a Village Hall wedding (act two) and then to a final act 1985 house party in a South of France Med Des Res.

As well as the usual shared student experiences, they’ve sung together, and regularly break into song throughout. It’s not Boy/Girl band stuff though; there’s nil instrumental backing as they fashion their own music a cappella style. The number of songs shoe-horned into the first act create a certain awkwardness; it’s a bit stop-start, akin to commercials interrupting the main programme.

That’s not to say the songs aren’t entertaining, far from it. They’re excellently performed and innovatively staged, creating visual pleasure as well as harmony. And by acts 2 & 3 they seem natural pauses, rather than force-fed. All of which is testament to the quintet onstage who take a decent script and make it playfully spiky – there’s a hint of post-watershed Playschool to the first act, though without smugness.

The quintet is as diverse as you’d expect but gel as a group. Scott (Stephen Fletcher) is the natural band leader, a charismatic exterior masking frustrated ambition. Tim (Christopher Pizzey) is likeably easy-going and long-haired, and holds a candle for hardline Spare Rib subscriber Angela (Gemma Wardle) who’s potentially soft-centred. Which leaves bright, brainy and blonde Bryony (Georgina White), at war with super-waster Keith (a Vivien/Neil hybrid) – actually Keith’s at war full stop. Gavin Spokes teases everyone to wonderful effect with a satirically precision-edged tongue nicely at odds with his slobbishness.

The production draws you in – like a big group hug but without going all happy-clappy. And there’s a real sense of feeling at the wedding. The staging is widescreen and maximizes Foxton’s bright, cool-looking and wonderfully versatile set.

It’s a hard play to nail – the third act stalls narratively as everyone ignores the elephant in the room, but Peter Rowe’s direction gets significantly more right than wrong and entertains of many levels.

Scott: Stephen Fletcher.
Tim: Christopher Pizzey.
Keith: Gavin Spokes.
Angela: Gemma Wardle.
Bryony: Georgina White.

Director: Peter Rowe.
Designer: Foxton. Lighting: Thomas Weir.
Sound: Lorna Munden.
Musical Director: Howard Gray.
Choreographer: Francesca Jaynes.

2010-04-27 12:08:28

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