The mood is set as photographs of the two sisters Tracey and Sharon as children and then teenagers are projected on the curtain. Set in the present day, the two sisters are still living together after their marriages have failed. They are joined by Tracey's spoiled 15-year old son Trevor (played by Robson's own son Louis Dunford) who, whenever the mood strikes him, will break a window to get into the flat. Sharon's complaints are ignored by his doting mother. Instead she points out that Sharon cannot even hold on to a job at Lidl's because she is so lazy. Tracey, a stay-at-home mom due to her agoraphobia, makes her living being nasty to people on the phone when cold-calling them. The idyllic life of the "Essex girls" is rudely interrupted when a letter from former neighbour Dorien arrives asking them to come to see her in a retirement home. Hopeful that Dorien's demise is imminent the two prospective heirs drive to the "Home for the Wealthy" - complete with golden chairs- only to find that Dorien actually runs the home and would like to use them as cheap labour. But then a murder occurs.
The writers have kept the style and situation as before - the dialogue is snappy and, at times, rather filthy, and a lot of humour is developed through the absurd situations the sisters and Dorien find themselves in. The performance was quite a bit longer than the half-hour show and was sagging a bit at times but the charm of the "three Birds" and their gift for comic timing kept it afloat. Robert Maskell also convinced as the smug and greedy son of a deceased patient and Caroline Burns Cooke gave an excellent performance as D.S. Teddern.
If you love the series, you will adore this show.
By Carolin Kopplin
For tour dates go to: www.birdsontour.com
Domestic Bliss, Roy Knowles’ biting satire on contemporary northern working-class life, has finally made it to a full-length fully-staged production after being work-shopped at Oldham Coliseum, semi-staged at the Not Part of Festival’s Sitcom Shorts show in 2009, and receiving a rehearsed reading at last year’s 24:7 Theatre Festival.
The process of development - and possibly the help of director Matthew Gould - has transformed the sketchy (if hilarious) premise into a fully-fledged comedy drama.
Hard-working but hide-bound Les and his kind but ditzy wife Jean think they already have enough on their plates with slacker son Mark and mouthy daughter Dawn. That’s until they decide to spend the evening unwinding in front of another scandalous episode of Danny Funckle, Agony Uncle (a format not unrelated to The Jeremy Kyle Show if DNA tests are to be believed) and discover that Shelly, the show’s latest dysfunctional wannabe WAG, is claiming that Mark is the father of her new baby…
John Howarth as comic foil Les and Sharon Heywood as doting grandmother Jean mine the play’s potential for drama and pathos, and Gemma Flannery’s Dawn and Matthew Melbourne’s Mark relish the sardonic one-liners, while Zoe Iqbal is fabulous as short-skirted, loose-moralled Shelly, the none-too-doting mother of bouncing fourteen-pound baby Hollyblossomlouise (named after her Nana and a paint advert on the telly).
Where Domestic Bliss really scores theatrical points is with the semi-surreal interplay between the scenes in the TV studio and the live reaction in the Tyler family’s front room. This is partly because the author turns the confession show’s sensationalist format into a recurring joke that brilliantly develops through the story. But mainly it’s because the stage is lit up by Liam Tims’ charismatic performance as the vain, self-important, counterfeit-caring TV presenter - his spontaneous interaction with the (real live) audience and witty ad libs were the icing on the cake.
Incidentally, this was my first theatre trip to the Nexus Art Café in Manchester‘s Trendy Northern Quarter (© Manchester City Council), which is a fantastic performance space as well as boasting squishy sofas, lovely coffee and tempting home-made cakes.
I can’t predict what the next development will be for Domestic Bliss, but if its previous incarnations are anything to go by it will be a tremendous success.
Domestic Bliss is on until Friday 25
February 2011 at Nexus Art Café, 2 Dale Street, Manchester M1 1JW
Tickets (£7/£5) on the door or in advance from : www.ibookedit.com (no booking fee)
I do mean to make love to Ford's
wife: I spy entertainment in her; she discourses,
she carves, she gives the leer of invitation: I
can construe the action of her familiar style; and
the hardest voice of her behavior, to be Englished
rightly, is, 'I am Sir John Falstaff's.'
It is said that Shakespeare wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor at the request of Queen Elizabeth I because she enjoyed the character of Falstaff in Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II so much that she wanted to see another play featuring the fat knight. The Merry Wives of Windsor is a farce and relies heavily on mix-ups and slapstick. In this respect, the play resembles the format of a typical situation comedy. It even has the types of characters that appear in TV sitcoms: everyday middle-class people or suburbanites.
Director Christopher Luscombe went directly for this approach, emphasizing the sitcom elements of the play to make the characters more recognizable to an international audience. One finds a distinct affinity of the high strung Frank Ford to John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty of the TV series Fawlty Towers.
Penniless once again, John Falstaff decides to fill his purse and to warm his heart by making love to the wives of two wealthy and highly esteemed Windsor citizens – Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. Appalled by his crude propositions the two women decide to have their revenge on Falstaff and to show him for what he is – a veritable ass. Meanwhile three suitors – the pompous Frenchman Dr. Caius, the young fool Slender and the romantic Fenton – are wooing the attractive daughter of Mistress Page.
This delightful production is beautifully staged and a joy to watch. Actors and musicians are dressed in colourful Elizabethan costumes, the latter are prominently positioned on the roof top accompanying the action with Elizabethan melodies. The production is perfectly cast. Christopher Benjamin plays Falstaff with authority, wit and a certain dignity even when he is dressed in his most outlandish clothes to impress the ladies. Serena Evans and Sarah Woodward are gloriously funny as the two wives who turn back into giggling schoolgirls whilst plotting their revenge against the unfortunate knight. Andrew Havill is hilarious as the jealous Frank Ford and Philip Bird gives a wonderful performance as Dr. Caius. Sue Wallace portrays the meddling Mistress Quickly with wit and charm, and Peter Gale is delightful as Robert Shallow, Esq. The final scene transforms the stage into a truly magical forest – a masque with song and dance.
The show runs until 4 December 2010 at the Richmond Theatre and will then proceed directly to Bath (6 to 11 December).
Richmond Theatre,The Green, Richmond, Surrey,