"Happy Bloody Birthday" by Riverside Drama.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
It's not often you get a brand new play,written locally that is genuinely funny, but here is one that ended its' run on Saturday night. I am so glad that I was able to catch it.
The play starts on the first birthday of young Josh, son of Alan (Phil Whitaker) and Gemma (Samantha Badman) and they have just revealed that they will be trying for a second one to their guests who appear from the front room, where all the child action is.
There's Charlie (Jenni Wright) whose child is depicted as the devil child, but the way she describes him and what he does makes him seem like the devil child. Underneath the comedy though there's a more serious matter that is addressed later in the play. Jenni is also the writer of this sharply observed piece of theatre, which rang many bells with me and I know with almost everyone who must have seen this play throughout its' run.
The mother, Elaine (Liz Turner) who is the calming influence but also has some secrets of her own.
Serena (Donna Osmond), Alan's sister who tries her best but always ends up causing trouble with her brother and sister-in law, especially with her second act revelation and her new boyfriend.
Mike (Jim Green) is the token single man, the womaniser with a one track mind, but we also see a change in Mike by the end of the play. This is JIm's debut with Riverside.
Katrina (Lizzie Norris) has a daughter and her partner Tom (Joe Downing), who is the sort of person you want at any kids' party as he is down with them. he loves kids and loves Katrina's daughter as his own. In all perfect relationships though, there may be cracks, and they can surface. While Lizzie is a regular on stage within Riverside productions, this is Joe's first acting role with the company
Amy (Rebekah Dean) is gay who deals with the friendly atypical banter from Mike with the humour it deserves,and you get the feeling that Amy has heard it all before and comes across as a very cool, laid back character in a sea of troubled family and friends.This is also Rebekah's debut with Riverside.
And then there is Grandad (Dave Wilson). A lovely grumpy character who adds "bloody" into every sentence or comment, which is also where the title comes from.
Over a period of 12 months we see the changes within this group of family and friends and the changes in their circumstances. Some were expected and some came like a bolt from the blue.
I loved this set (Jenni Wright) and the back drop projection (Andrew Bullett), which I noticed also changed from Act One to Act Two.
I also loved the way the action was frozen as we learned about the characters from the others. this was particularly well highlighted by the lighting (Dave Martin).
The Sound Design (Jenni Wright and Andrew Bullett) was also very clever and well presented, as well as very smartly timed. Every time the door to where the party was being held opened, the sound of the kids and activity emerged naturally.
The play which first took root fifteen years ago and was devised after Jenni's son's first birthday party, has grown into a well scripted, naturally comic and brilliantly observed piece of theatre. And when you match such writing with a quality cast, as we have here, it's a production to celebrate.
I hope Jenni's next play will not take another fifteen years to materialise.