Les & Ali’s Big Balearic Adventure
Kings Arms, Salford
Newlywed Ali (Nicole Evans) experiences massive buyer’s remorse. She wonders, having lived happily with her partner Les (Darren John Langford) for years, if it was a wise choice to spaff £30,000 on a honeymoon and a wedding attended by just 15 of their friends and her less aggressive relatives. Husband Les, however, is undergoing his own existential crisis and, during the holiday, proposes they do not return to England, a country he has come to despise, and instead make Ibiza their home.
One of the effects of the COVID pandemic was some people furloughed from work chose not to return, either changing jobs or simply withdrawing from the workforce. Les argues his choice is motivated by no longer being able to endure the intolerant atmosphere in the UK and the dreadful decisions of central government. However, a mid-point revelation in the play suggests he may simply be going through a mid-life crisis.
Mike Heath, author and director of Les & Ali’s Big Balearic Adventure, does not try to develop a credible alternative lifestyle comedy like say, The Good Life. Rather Les argues the couple make a leap of faith—commit to the move and sort out the practicalities later. Therefore, instead of arguing over details, the couple concentrate on the concept which Les claims is simple—after all, they have already moved from their native Wales to England, and his proposal is not that different.
Despite Les & Ali’s Big Balearic Adventure being described as a state-of-the-nation play, politics hardly feature in the discussions. Ali seems apolitical and, if so, would be an odd choice of partner for someone like Les who claims high political sensitivity. Brexit is mentioned as being an obstacle to Les’s hopes, as both he and Ali will find seeking employment harder due to the UK leaving the EU.
Heath directs a warm-hearted domestic comedy. Ali and Les are a suitably mismatched couple, with the former carefully groomed and the latter looking dishevelled. Ali, possibly out of misdirected maternal instincts, develops a very strange obsession with a dog. The symbolism in the play is not subtle; petting the dog, Ali wonders if we cease to notice chains which are worn for a long time.
Much of the comedy is prompted by the usual suspects: couples recapturing their youth by trying the drugs they have heard about. The funniest scene is, therefore, Nicole Evans moving like a deranged robot and maniacally claiming the ecstasy is having no effect, while Darren John Langford stands bombed out of his head repeating the same phrase over and over.
Nicole Evans and Darren John Langford make such a convincing couple, it is hard to believe their relationship is in any danger. Yet there is plenty of opportunity to develop the understated drama in the play and spice things up a bit. Les’s actions suggest he may be experiencing mental health issues. He made a life-changing decision without informing Ali and is cagey about how the funds were generated to pay for the extravagant wedding. His reaction to an official saying his proposal is not credible is childish and petulant. Developing the negative aspects of Les’s character might have introduced some doubt about the couple remaining together and so some tension.
Les & Ali’s Big Balearic Adventure is a fine comedy, very well acted but might benefit from more suspense to keep viewers interested.
Reviewer: David Cunningham