Ron Barber Studio, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Tuesday 21st July, 2015
It starts in a bathroom where Dad (Simon Chinery) is in the tub, trying to relax. Mum (Sue Elise) barges in and accuses him of hiding from his mother who is visiting the family for Christmas. Which is exactly what he is doing. In comes their son (Nicholas Tuck – who also writes and directs) with problems of his own. And so the scene is set for what you think is going to be a play about being saddled with elderly relatives, or dementia, or something like that. But there is a twist: Granny’s presence is merely the catalyst for forcing the other family members into a tight spot where other problems come to the surface.
It’s a very funny script – taking a situation you can see on soap operas any day of the week and seeing it through a fresh pair of eyes. The humour is savage at times, tinged with bitterness and sarcasm as the members of the family tear verbal chunks from each other. Moments of drama, too, are handled well.
As the Father, Simon Chinery takes a couple of minutes to warm up (must be cold in that tub) and Mother, Sue Elise, loses a little energy a couple of times, but when they are in full flight, they are excellent, supported by a strong script from young writer Nicholas Tuck – who himself gives an impassioned performance as the troubled Son.
We first meet the titular Grandmother in a monologue between the two acts. Wanda Raven is spot on in her rambling, halting speech – we see exactly what the family have been complaining about. She is as tedious as we have been led to believe and very, very funny. Her comic timing cannot be faulted in the second scene at the Christmas dinner table twelve months on. Here we meet Marie the Girlfriend, in a performance of simmering tension from Emma Doran. The dramatic tension boils over, splitting the family, and the comic barbs keep coming.
It’s an old-fashioned play but comes across as a refreshing take on well-worn situations. Clearly, Nicholas Tuck is a talented young man, who knows how to structure scenes, motivate characters and carry off a well-placed one-liner. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.