A vibrant comic piece adopting Ayckbourn’s tears-behind-the-laughter sensibilities, Marlborough Road hits the right note from the get-go, as loose woman Mel (gamely played by author Natasha May) offers audience members shots of vodka to get them in the party spirit.
For Mel and her uptight sister Jane (Stacey Norris), a resident of the eponymous London street, are hosting a fun girls’ night in – or a more low-key “meet and greet” as young mother Jane would prefer to have it – having invited their as-yet unknown neighbours.
If the arrival of the guests does not introduce characters of striking originality, it is of little concern as each successive entrance ups the consistently high gag rate, with splendid moments such as the punctuation-fixated Susan (Clare Scott) and self-regarding actress Annie (Gemma Nelson) doing declamatory battle in an impromptu Bard-off.
Excellent ensemble performances provide fluid entertainment, even if at times broader performance levels are not quite in synch with occasions of naturalistic emotion.
But this is a warm, likeable and sensitive comedy portraying women struggling to conceal their inner anguish, and marks an impressive start from a new, female-focused company making a welcome effort to redress theatre’s gender imbalance.
Hen and Chickens, London, April 2-20
- Natasha May
- Katherine Timms
- All Things Nice Productions
- Stacey Norris, Natasha May, Clare Scott, Gemma Nelson, Sadie Tonks, Chloe Culhane, Ella Brown
- Running time
- 1hr 15mins