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Beautiful House by Cathy Crabb at Library Theatre, Manchester

Published by: Caroline May on 26th Apr 2010 | View all blogs by Caroline May


Cathy Crabb’s comedy Beautiful House returns to the Library Theatre stage in a full-blown professional production after its success in the 2009 Re:play Festival.

Middle-aged, middle-class Bridgette and Ronnie appear to have come down in the world with a bang when they take up residence in one of Salford’s less salubrious tower blocks.  The mystery of how they find themselves exiled from the rural idyll of Delph and living cheek-by-jowl with neighbours like pink-velour-track-suited Paula and chavvy Otis is eventually revealed over several fraught and occasionally alcohol-fuelled encounters.

The title is a metaphor that works on several levels.  Bridgette’s beautiful house is the rambling wreck she’s spent years renovating; for Otis, it’s the dream of a better life for his family a long way from the inner-city.  But to Paula, who (astonishingly) works on reception at the Manchester Museum and has become obsessed with Egyptology, “Beautiful House” means the special place where bodies go to be eviscerated before they are mummified. 

Cathy Crabb’s script is brilliantly funny, littered with killing one-liners, hilarious anecdotes and sharply detailed observation of life.  Her characters are raw and sometimes painful to watch, especially Ronnie and Bridgette with their shockingly cruel and destructive relationship - Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has nothing on this.  Janice Connolly, all condescending air and semi-refined accent, convincingly reverts to Bridgette’s native Failsworth idiom at the drop of a hat, and John Henshaw blusters about as her dull but dependable chemistry teacher husband.

Sally Carman is very funny but slightly cartoony as Paula - I miss the blend of the pathetic and the ridiculous which Cathy Crabb herself brought to the part last year.  However James Foster, reprising his role as nice-but-dim Otis, is superb once again.  His wordless reaction to Paula’s holiday story is unforgettable, a really great piece of acting.

Did I mention that it’s funny?  The cast has the audience roaring the whole way through, while Noreen Kershaw’s direction keeps the whole thing on an even keel.  A great evening’s entertainment.


Beautiful House is on until Saturday 8 May 2010

Prices: £8.00-£18.00 (concessions available)

Eves: Mon-Thurs @ 7.30pm; Fri & Sat @ 8pm

Matinees: Thurs & Sat @ 3pm

Box Office: 0161 236 7110




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