The Crescent Theatre has always been a successful platform for encouraging the work of new and upcoming playwrights and companies and it was with great interest that I settled down to discover the journey contained within Nicholas Tuck's The Grandmother.
With the application of repetitive opening Christmas music, we are left in no doubt as to what time of year the play is set and, as the stage lights come up, we see a figure reclining in a tin bath, amidst minimal staging to evoke the alternative setting of what is intended to be a family bathroom.
We are quickly introduced to The Father and The Mother, played by Simon Chinery and Sue Elise. The exchanges between them are witty and fast-paced, made all the more comical by the fact that all Father wants is to finish his bath in peace. The connection between them is excellent and both succeed in drawing us head-first into their family life with skill. They are soon joined by The Son, a role undertaken by Nicholas Tuck himself. The merits and disadvantages of the director and playwright casting themselves in a main role vary greatly but it has to be said that Tuck plays the role quite convincingly, helping the other characters to build up the picture of awfulness that is the eponymous Grandmother.
There then follows a monologue by The Grandmother herself, played by Wanda Raven. Although much care has been taken in terms of costume and there is a nice element of traditional "OAP storytelling" evident in the script, somehow this Grandma does not live up to her previous reputation as the cause of all the irritation from the previous scene and I was left wondering why it was that she was so hated by the rest of her family.
After a quick scene change, we are then shown the family Christmas dinner table (with the addition of a girlfriend character Marie, played with conviction by Emma Doran). But, inexplicably, a year has passed and feelings have suddenly changed between the members of the family. The play then draws to a rather abrupt and unexplained conclusion which leaves the audience somewhat confused and unsure as to how we are supposed to respond.
It is a gigantic feat to create a detailed domestic tragicomedy in the space of half an hour and Nicholas Tuck has made a valiant step in that direction. However, such a story does need an ending and we are sadly not provided with one. This said, there are some excellent exchanges between the characters in the first scene and some brilliant one liners delivered deftly by the cast as the tension builds.
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