Anyone who’s ever had a family, ie just about everyone, will find something to relate to Tim Firth’s cheery, chirpy new musical comedy.
The creator of the film Calendar Girls applies a similar feel-good factor to this slight but engaging tale.
Delightful 13-year-old Nicky, moody teen brother Matt, and her 40-something mum and dad are hardly the dysfunctional family suggested by the pre-performance blurb. Rather they’re a lovely bunch of recognisable, very normal people at differing, sometime clashing phases of their lives, and dealing with its various vicissitudes with humour and warmth.
In fact it’s the warmth emanating from the small stage that is this production’s greatest strength. This Is My Family might be a touch soft-centred and at times sentimental for some tastes but it’s also very charming – and simply impossible to dislike.
What’s clever is the way that Firth doesn’t stop and start the narrative for a song. To a tight, live on-stage accompaniment, the cast ably switch from speaking to singing with natural ease.
And of course it has the wonderful Sian Phillips as May, a sparky 80-year-old grandma in the early stages of dementia. Phillips supplies the pathos and has a host of memorable lines, not the least when she sings in that rasping drawl: “Love is what’s left when you’ve sucked off all the chocolate and are left with the nut...”
Evelyn Hoskins’ Nicky is sweet and lovable without being sickly, and Terence Keeley’s grunting adolescent boy Matt is hilarious.
Bill Champion makes bumbling dad Steve deeply likeable, while Clare Burt’s Yvonne is a wistful middle-aged mum wondering where her youth went. Rachel Lumberg as her larger-than-life sister Sian completes a first-rate line-up.
Director Daniel Evans has barely put a foot wrong during his Crucible tenure and surely has another hit on his hands.