Zack, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
Thursday 06 January 2011
There cannot be many plays in which the hero is a waddling, bearded ne'er-do-well who is dissed by his family and pushed around by all. Harold Brighouse's 1920s comedy Zack (less well known than his earlier Hobson's Choice) has such a figure at its heart.
This gentle revival by Greg Hersov does not attempt to spice up the story. But the production does enjoy the advantage of having Justin Moorhouse, a popular local stand-up, playing Zachariah Munning, an engaging innocent whose docile demeanour has women literally falling into his arms. Trapped into an engagement to Samantha Power's coquettish Martha Wrigley that he's just too nice to oppose, he even has the audience uttering a sympathetic "aw" as he exits, intimidated by her bullying father, Joe (James Quinn).
As is too often the case with this type of farce, however, the set-up is laboured. Polly Hemingway's starchy Mrs Munning spars with a tediously presumptuous parlourmaid as the Munning household prepares for a visit from rich Cousin Virginia. Quite why this sparky young lady, splendidly portrayed by Kelly Price, should consider marriage to the older Munning son, slimy Paul, is never clear. Nor is it conceivable that Mrs Munning would allow a revolting trio of men into her parlour uninvited – and then serve them beer and cheese – as she does here.
The plot brings together two principals – but not the two whom Mrs Munning would prefer. For Zack, it turns out, has a knack. In the family business of wedding planning and provision he charms the guests, bringing much needed warmth. But while he turns out to be the business's biggest asset, he is also its most sought-after groom.
Moorhouse brings a twinkle to a dullish play, and the mime scene between the brothers as one sharpens knives, the other watching hawkishly, is alone worth the ticket.
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