★★★ | This Is My Family, Lyceum theatre Sheffield and National Tour
Nicky loves her family very much, so enters a competition to win a holiday by describing her family in less than three hundred words. However, her description does not include details of her mother’s boredom at her routine life, her father’s impending midlife crisis, her grandmother’s increasing forgetfulness and her Goth brother’s lovelorn angst. So when Nicky finds out she has won the competition and can chose any location in the world for her destination, she eventually decides on a holiday which none of her family would have ever expected.
Following its debut last year, this new British musical comedy embarks on its first national tour. Written by Tim Firth, writer of Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots, the quick paced script is delivered at a matching speed and produces a number of genuinely funny one liners, with humour reminiscent of the family sitcoms “Outnumbered” and “”My Family”. The show is akin to a sing through musical, with the songs being part of the narrative and moving the story forward (with the cast, in essence, singing their lines) but with sufficient dialogue in between to break up the numbers and a script and story which balanced comedy, conflict and sentimentality very well.
Evelyn Hoskins was every bit the star of the show, with her outstanding voice and upbeat performance as Nicky. But she was very closely followed by Terence Keeley, as Matt, whose singing voice had a mature, powerful and almost operatic quality for such a young performer and whose deadpan delivery was spot on. The entire company had good comic timing, playfully cutting across each other and delivering the wordy script with aplomb.
In the newly refurbished Lyceum Theatre, the sound was crystal clear with every word being audible, despite how quickly the cast spoke. The static set was functional, as was the lighting, but this play is more about the writing than the staging.
Where the play fell short was the songs; which sounded far too alike each other to ever really stand apart from the previous on, and the repeating refrains somehow making the first act seem very slow. In terms of the story, there felt as though there was very little narrative progression in the first act, and it was more about building up characters and relationships than driving the plot forward. But the second act brought everything together quite nicely, and in hindsight, it was clear why the slow build up was necessary, with the show just managing to keep on the right side of sentimentality to head towards a feel good ending.
This is My Family is not your usual musical – if you go expecting show stopping routines and big, bold numbers, you will be disappointed. But if you want a sitcom with songs, with plenty of laugh out loud moments, you will no doubt find much to enjoy.
This Is My Family is currently playing at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/this-is-my-family-14/ ) before heading out on its first national tour, visiting Royal & Derngate, Northampton; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry; Liverpool Playhouse and The New Wolsey, Ipswich.