REVIEW: Chalet Lines @ Live Theatre
By Adam Clery on September 24, 2012 in Stage
If there’s been one overriding reaction to Chalet Lines, Live Theatre’s latest offering, it’s how impressive it is to see a man write a play about a predominantly female cast. Whilst that’s certainly true, to taken such a human story and claim it’s basically just a story about some lasses, is missing the point.
Based around a series of haphazard and recurring family get-togethers, Chalet Lines plants you directly into the Skegness Butlins and takes you through 5 decades of drama and histrionics, via raucous comedy and emotional scarring. Penned by Lee Mattinson, who’s credits now range from the disturbingly dark Donna Disco, to everyone’s favourite bun fight in a pub Coronation Street, the production is a joint effort by Live and London’s Bush Theatre which essentially looks at the the hideous character flaws of the people who raised us, and wonders just how far an apple can fall from a tree.
The Live Theatre’s never been the biggest (I mean that in terms of actual dimensions, not stature) to perform on, it’s refreshing to see a real effort given to things like set design and costume. Flitting between numerous eras throughout the course of the story, the attire and backgrounds change perfectly to reflet the time and even the soundscape was designed to help the audience make the transition from one year to the next.
In terms of the cast, it’s a genuinely fantastic performance from everyone involved, but Victoria Kay in particular stands out as the understated centre of the universe that everything else onstage nosily has to buzz around.
If there’s one thing Lee Mattinson can do, it’s ladle out Northern humour in such generous portions you can practically get up and swim around in it. Were Chalet Lines and out and out comedy I’d be throwing around terms like “triumph”, “success” and “megalolzords” but, ironically enough, it’s the high levels of hilarity that prove the plays greatest problem.
The first half of proceedings are so funny, and so relentlessly witty, that by the time the serious dramatic parts come into play you’re often found expecting a punchline. The change around in tone comes unstuck in a few places and there’s a noticeable reluctance from the audience to switch between the two. There’s just a slight imbalance, but it’s one that trips everything up a few times. Not catastrophically, but not unnoticeably either.
It leaves a few things unanswered as well, and there’s a sense that you’re maybe not watching the finished version of things, but overall it’s probably one of the best and most original works to come out of the region in recent times. It might be about a number of women trapped in a small room, but if you’ve ever looked at your parents and wondered how you’d turn out, there’s plenty to get emotionally involved in, regardless of gender.
- THEATRE REVIEW: Bones @ The People’s Theatre