Park Theatre, London ★★✩✩✩
IT’S a good thing for a comedy to be hysterical. But hysterical as in haha — not as in a neurotic, chewing-the-carpet kind of way. And although former EastEnder Charlie Brooks as the unhinged, knife-packing Sally adds much-needed tension to the middle-class mayhem of this kitchen-set drama, neither she nor Janie Dee’s domestic goddess Caroline can save it from being fit for the waste disposal.
In Torben Betts’s latest play there is more than a whiff of Alan Ayckbourn, that master dramatist who reveals the dark underbelly of suburban banality.Caroline is a celebrity chef who is neglected by her banker husband, nagged by her gay son to out him to his domineering father, and begged by her lover to elope. Yet for much — too much — of this play, nobody quite gets to say what is on their mind. Reckonings are either ignored or frustratingly interrupted.
Betts shows just how bad we are at listening to those closest to us. But in Alastair Whatley’s production this pertinent point is made in a way that makes you want to shake the characters by the shoulders while shouting ‘shut up and listen’. Still, the cast bring stacks of energy to this sub-Ayckbourn fare. The always terrific Dee adds a classy glamour, while Brooks is the opposite — pinched, bitter and slightly psychopathic.
Genevieve Gaunt as Caroline’s hyper PA Amanda, who has a working-class chip on her shoulder, is also worth a mention. But there’s nothing at stake that feels big enough to justify the contrived, if spectacular, climax.