Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Enjoy

Alan Bennett
York Theatre Royal
(2007)

Publicity image

With all the recent discussion of The History Boys, Enjoy is often somewhat overshadowed by Bennett's more popular, lighter work. It retains all of Bennett's trademark wit, nostalgic characters, sexual suggestion and flights of surreal fantasy but includes some darker undertones about the loss of community and family secrets.

Enjoy is reputably a favourite of the playwright's own work, and after June's Wuthering Heights York Theatre Royal undoubtedly needed to schedule a big selling author into their 2007 programme. Enjoy is the perfect choice, bringing Bennett's reputation to a less well known, more challenging work.

Wilfred and Connie Craven live in an end terrace in Leeds that awaits demolition, and while Dad can't wait to move into the new flat, Mam is not so sure. Dad dotes on Linda, their daughter, believing her to be a personal secretary, while all the evidence points to the contrary. He forbids discussion of their son, Terry, who left the family a long time ago, while Mam tries hard to remember but tends to forget. When a mysterious sociologist Ms Craig, comes to visit, the Craven's are under scrutiny on one of the family's most untypical days yet.

This is a 'typical' family turned inside out and Nigel Hook's striking set represents this from the beginning. A sheer, translucent cloth drops to the floor to begin the play and reveal the living room, and the final deconstruction of the set, including a beautiful display case for Mam is exquisite.

There are some wonderful, heart warming performances most especially from Gilly Tompkins as Connie, whose endearing performance never betrayed a hint of the throat infection from which she was suffering on the night. Peter Nolan as Dad strikes a superb balance between a desperate and reprehensible old man. Katherine Dow Blyton struts her stuff as Linda in ever decreasing short skirts and Tina Gray provides an effervescent Mrs Clegg as the classic Hyacinth Bucket from next door. Directors Damien Cruden and Juliet Forster have vividly staged a Bennett nugget.

Enjoy's first outings in the 1980s left some audiences confused and divided, and has been hailed as 'ahead of its time'. Bennett's British nostalgia is perfectly at home in this 'museum' piece, providing an active reflection on today's crumbling notion of neighbourhood community. If you're not a prime fan of the author, don't be deterred, and if you are, you will enjoy Enjoy.

Reviewer: Cecily Boys