THEATRE REVIEW: Comfort and Joy

By Phil Turner | 23/12/2016 0 comments

THEATRE REVIEW: Comfort and Joy

CHRISTMAS comes but once a year - and it’s just well for Mike Harding's festive family.

Steve Eddison, a pint-sized mix of Scrooge, Bad Santa and Jim Royle, is hilarious as grumpy old man Goff (correct) who is the life and soul of the Christmas party from hell.

Everything that can go wrong in the Duggan’s household does. 

Uncle Goff has to keep his Santa outfit on cos someone at the old folks’ home nicked his clothes while he was giving out the presents. 

The carol singers make an almighty racket, the Christmas tree lights fuse, the plumbing floods, a flatulent dog called Trumpton runs off with the turkey. 

It’s fun all the way with this highly-talented cast from the Dilys Guite Players.

Ian J. France is warm and witty as dad Martin, who can buy or fix anything for a fiver. 

An Irish philosopher, he manages to get Marxist dialetics into the yuletide chatter and later eloquently takes the rise out of daughter Kathy's posh boyfriend called Crispin with a lesson on Ireland’s history of art and culture. 

Harding mixes slapstick and farce with sharp, well observed dialogue that’s got a real ring of truth to it. 

Mum Margaret, played by Annie Herbert, is a deservedly frustrated long suffering wife, with a nice line in sarcasm while she triesto keep her head while all around her lose theirs.

Their daughter Helen is nicely played by Lisa Drury.

Alison Glentworth as Goff’s own long-lost daughter Fiona — reunited with her father after 30 years — manages a neat Australian twang and her husband Jimmy, played by a droll Chris Boydell, looking like a big Ralf Little of the Royle Family, are both excellent. 

As the family catch up on the past in Harding’s native Lancashire, the list of long-gone mills, closed down only to be turned into supermarkets or leisure centres, is eerily reminiscent of South Yorkshire’s famous industrial heritage. 

Martin and Margaret’s London-based yuppie daughter Kathy, played by Rose Paxman and the aforementioned Crispin, played by James Simms — very funny doing a chicken walk in charades — are a fine comic double act.

But nearly stealing the show are two of the funniest performances coming from Nigel Hughes and Sharon Fenwick with a close encounter definitely not of the yuletide kind as a couple seeing aliens — or angels as they prefer to call them. 

The pair also double up as Pat, Jimmy's long forgotten wife and her taciturn friend Hughie.

As Goff says in the play, comedy is all about timing and I've not seen better.

As usual with DGP, the set design and technicals from Harry Rowbottom are spot on. 

Stage manager Robin Westoby and assistant Allan Westoby, and the set design team of Phil Claxton, Barry Worthington, Tony Pickering, Ian Kelman, Daniel Devlin and Pete Butler deserve great credit.

Director Kevin Jackson and first time assistant director Viv Mager do a great job of keeping it all together as one gag follows another. 

Oodles of comfort and lots of joy.

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