Theatre review: This Is My Family, Crucible Studio Theatre, Sheffield
Playwright and composer Tim Firth has emerged as inheritor of a British musical tradition laid down by Lionel Bart and Willy Russell. Director Daniel Evans meanwhile, is being seriously talked about as the next artistic director of the National Theatre.
The prospect of these two big names producing a new musical in the intimate confines of the Crucible Studio was an exciting one even if the subject matter – an unsuccessful family holiday - seemed a little lacking in grandeur.
At times, during the first act it did seem a bit of a high wire endeavour trying to wring the necessary drama out of the mundane domesticity of mid-life crisis and teenage angst. And yet as the performance continued it was impossible not to be drawn into the ups and downs of family life leaving many in the audience alternating between helpless laughter and real tears.
Firth’s previous works include the hugely popular Our House and Calendar Girls. This latest offering is a Sondheimesque exploration into the space between people who love each other but who, due to the ravages everyday life and the eroding passage of time, struggle to show it.
It is also very funny.
Thirteen year-old Nicky leads proceedings, taking her family on a disastrous camping trip after winning a competition for a free holiday anywhere in the word. She rejects the lure of the exotic in return for returning her parents to the storm-lashed site where their teenage love – both gauche and beautiful - was first declared and sealed in a biscuit box before being buried under a tree.
Coming along for the ride is lovelorn Emo, brother Matt, increasingly forgetful grandmother May (played by theatrical grand dame Sian Phillips) and aunty Sian who delivers much of the comic muscle to proceedings.
This is an unashamedly feelgood and sentimental production which flicks all the right switches. The entire cast is spectacularly good bringing actorly gravity to their parts whilst skilfully squeezing the many laughs out of the libretto. True there are no real show stoppers but it would defy nature not to be humming the leitmotif for several days afterwards.
There may well be a demographic – teenage to pre-parenthood, perhaps- for whom the obvious charms of this musical might fail. For the rest of us it just left the overwhelming urge to go home and give the kids a hug.
To 20 July
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant