On the Piste
Coliseum Theatre, Oldham
The Coliseum's stage has been turned into a working ski slope for its opening production of the new season: John Godber's comedy set in an Austrian package holiday ski resort, On The Piste.
The play opens as Austrian ski instructor Tony welcomes us to the resort with a well-rehearsed speech to new visitors before the members of his group for the week arrive: young couple Dave and Bev and slightly-older couple Chris and Alison. Dave and Bev have been together for six months and seem very close and 'lovey-dovey'; Chris and Allison's unmarried relationship has passed its first decade and seems more of a habit than a passionate coupling.
Into this group comes posh, attractive Melissa, who betrays some emotion when she talks about her husband not being with her but never explains, attracting the attention of the men and the jealousy of the women. These relationships that seem relatively stable on the surface quickly betray some cracks that cause the couples to reassess their lives together.
The play has some reasonable verbal and physical comedy, some vaguely-interesting, if rather superficially-explored, themes about relationships and some quite nice characters. The plot isn't exactly tightly-constructed and nothing is particularly great or memorable, but it passes the time in a reasonably-entertaining way and provides a few mild laughs along the way.
Director Kevin Shaw creates a perfectly-watchable show out of the thin material with the help of a pretty decent cast. Adrian Bouchet plays extremely self-assured Tony without any irony or caricature, which makes it funnier than if he had tried to play it for laughs. Catherine Kinsella gives a superb performance as the childish, smitten Bev, with good support from Richard Oldham as Dave.
Kate Coogan gives a very strong performance as Alison, Stuart Wade gets across the mid-life crisis of Chris very well and Loveday Smith is perfect as Melissa. The lack of depth in the characters is the fault of the script, not the actors. Four of them become a very convincing Abba-lookalike during a typical Godber soliloquy from Chris, although it would have been twice as effective if it was half as long. Richard Foxton's set creates a very real-looking ski slope that acts quite like a real snowy slope when the actors ski down it.
Overall this is a decent production of a piece that is inoffensive and mildly entertaining but ultimately quite forgettable.
Until 24th September
Reviewer: David Chadderton