Keep It Simple
24:7 Theatre Festival
Midland Hotel, Manchester
After receiving the MEN Theatre Award last year for best fringe production for the delightful Islanders (possibly the last ever to do so), Dick Curran returns to 24:7 with his new play Keep It Simple.
Set somewhere in Cumbria (there are references to the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston) on the eve of Sabena and Gawain's wedding, the immediate family gathers for the event. Mother Kate, a magazine agony aunt for teenagers, is building up to telling her second husband, chiropodist Doug, that she is pregnant while also worrying about the imminent arrival of her first husband and father to Sabena, poet Ted, whose personality is rather different from Doug's.
After a potential cake disaster is averted and a bit too much wine and whisky is downed by the fathers of the bride the night before plus a few misunderstandings over exactly who is pregnant, a walk in the woods is suggested to clear a few heads before the big event.
There is something a bit old-fashioned and pseudo-Ayckbourn about this gentle comedy but without any of Ayckbourn's sharp social observations, experimental structure or complex characterisations. In fact the characters range from the comic caricature to the barely-characterised plot device and there is very little threat to anything in their comfortable world to make the audience wonder or care about what is going to happen.
This isn't helped by a production that is a little slack at times and some unconvincing acting, with the exception of Shelley O'Brien trying to hold everything together as Kate and Rachel Teate who manages to create a fairly convincing character out of very little material as Sabena.
There is some gentle, amiable fun to be had watching this play and certainly there are funny moments, but after the marriage of a good script and a lovely production that Curran's last 24:7 play achieved this is somewhat of a disappointment.
Reviewer: David Chadderton