Tea Tree Players
Tea Tree Players Theatre
Until 03 Jun 2017

Review by Anthony Vawser

It’s a joy and a thrill to experience a farce that hasn’t completely dated itself into oblivion, one staged by a director and cast who – by and large – are fully in tune with the material, and especially one that gets you so involved with its convoluted nonsense that by the second act, you wind up gently convulsing with helpless laughter even at times when no actual jokes are being made – and chuckling with delight on nearly all of the occasions when they *are* being made.

Ray Cooney’s script sets its premise up in that classic manner that delightfully points the way toward madcap complication and imminent comic chaos. The subplot of a play being planned within the play is a very shrewd inclusion, giving an easy excuse for characters to enhance both the humour and the madness by occasionally emerging in silly costumes and uttering strange sentences. Barry Hill’s direction is fast-paced without being too frantic. The twin aspects of timing and momentum are crucial in this genre, and are spot-on throughout. The level of humour may sink to that of ‘childish’ at times, but the running gags generally produce sheer delight.

As protagonist Dr Mortimore, Nick Hargreaves does a sterling job of propelling this play’s engine, and director Hill is expert at moving all the pieces into (and out of) place around him. Mark Bone, playing the long-suffering sidekick, is consummately goofy – and on occasion, delightfully musical – in just the right way. Hayley Mitchell has tremendous energy and appeal in her role as the old flame come to spring a surprise on poor Mortimore; Justin Heath, playing her unruly offspring, lacks a little in conviction to start with, but definitely warms up in the role as he goes along, winding up as another endearing contributor to the success of this show.

Timothy Cousins is an absolute scream in his wheelchair-bound part, while Rick Mills makes for an unusually convincing copper. Karin Marks is a delightful late addition to the show, while Adrian Heness, Theresa Dolman, Stacey Webb, Don Stuart, and Susie Daniels (who stage manages *and* appears in character) all make contributions that range from solid to super. Damon Hill’s scenic art is a standout contribution to the director’s own nicely-achieved set design.

There are moments in Act Two when the attempt to mine laughs from the hilarity of male cross-dressing makes the script feel a little stale and retrograde, but for about 90% of the time, when “It Runs in the Family” is firing off the slapstick gags and funny faces and general tomfoolery, it’s blessedly easy to lean back and enjoy such comic expertise being deployed on stage by Barry Hill and his cracker of a cast.