Chris Eldon Lee reviews ‘This Is My Family’ by Tim Firth, which is at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 1st November
I’ve been a great fan of Tim Firth since way before ‘Calendar Girls’. He understands people so well…and can get to the core of their relationships in just a couple of exchanges of dialogue, or a few lyrical lines. His characters are beautifully observed and closely recognisable; they do and say the things we do and say, and they’re jolly funny with it.
All this is especially true of his latest comedy “This Is My Family”, which does exactly what it says on the programme cover and rightly won Best Musical in 2013. It went on to become the best selling show in the history of the Sheffield’s Crucible theatre – and it only takes a few minutes to work out why.
It’s such a damnably clever piece of work. The tight dialogue and conversational songs are minutely embroidered together. The performers wiz between lines and lyrics as if playing with a revolving door; faultlessly hitting thousands of split-second cues as they slickly oscillate between pining for a lost love and the fact that they’ve run out of teabags.
The characters and their crises are classic. Dad is hopeless, Mum is reduced to a Mum-bulance, Gran is going dotty, sister-in-law is overbearing, big brother has got a bad case of The Goths and little sister is a textaholic. The familiar scenarios of ‘not listening’ and ‘not connecting’ are portrayed in bittersweet analogies. No wonder love is failing if you spend so much time admiring Cheddar Gorge you’re too tired to find Wookey Hole.
The six piece band is superbly subtle and the stellar cast is pulled together by the smallest star of all. Evelyn Hoskins is bright and bouncy as the seen-it-all thirteen year old, guiding us through the inner recesses of her family life with wit and wisdom. She’s full of fabulous detail. We even get to know the name of the deceased hamster.
Tim Firth steers a straight course between Coward and Sondheim, producing a wonderfully English, middle-class, living room, pop opera. He’s quarried his back catalogue a little, but the whole show oozes love and understanding. The laughs are knowing and the nostalgia for special places and past passions is so beautifully done it’s tearful.
In fact I often didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I do know I’d quite like to be a member of his family.
Photo : Robert Day
Box office: 024 7655 3055