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REVIEW: It Runs in the Family by Ray Cooney

28 Sep – 6 Oct 2018

It Runs in the Family contains the usual Ray Cooney mixture of misunderstandings and subterfuge leading ultimately to exposure with a twist in the tail.  An enthusiastic cast, well directed by Lyndsey Meer, provided an evening of mad-cap entertainment, which, from the audience reaction, was well received.  The play was a departure from Lyndsey Meer’s normal directing genre but one in which she clearly felt equally at home.

Dr Mortimore, (Matt Davis), is reaching the pinnacle of his career and is hoping for a knighthood once the Ponsonby lecture is successfully delivered and hospital worthy, Dame Willoughby Drake, (Julia Allen) suitably impressed.  But the doctor’s final preparations are interrupted by the arrival of Leslie, an emotional young man, played with touching gusto by Dan Palmer, and his mother, Jane Tate (Megan Skinner).  Turns out Leslie is his son from a fling with Nurse Tate eighteen years ago and Leslie is intent on finding Dad, today!  Mayhem ensues from the elaborate lies and farcical antics to keep various people apart and Dr Mortimer’s career, and marriage to Mrs Mortimer (Clare Murray) intact.

Doctors Bonney (Stephen Whitehead) and Connolly (Richard Smith) were excellent foils for Mortimore’s increasingly manic behaviour, supporting him throughout amidst preparations for a staff pantomime and presents for the patients.   Various costume changes followed, involving men in female clothing; many women would be proud to strut as effortlessly as Richard Smith in high heels, long frock and head gear.   Other players added to the growing chaos of the piece. David Ames was Bill, a wonderfully irrepressible elderly gent in a wheelchair at/on speed, Alan Haynes as a police sergeant provided just the right level of gullibility to be very believable and Pauleen McLaughlin’s characterisation as Matron was superb. Gill Jenks and Yvonne Rees also appeared briefly as an obedient nurse and proud Grandmother respectively. Inevitably it all unravels but the cast kept it moving with huge pace and fine comic timing.

The set was excellent too with period features and a window that was used to great comic effect.  Also of note were the working clock and the period Christmas decorations. Costumes were of the right era (1980s) and sound effects, whilst limited, worked well, particularly the choice of introductory music.

Give us a Cooney farce, whether from father or son, performed this well, and we will go home happy.

Keith Hunt

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