Theatre review - Comfort and Joy, The Lytham Anonymous Players

Comfort and Joy The Lytham Anonymous Players Lowther Pavilion, Lytham

Comfort and Joy The Lytham Anonymous Players Lowther Pavilion, Lytham - Credit: Archant

“Comfort and Joy” – The Lytham Anonymous Players – Lowther Pavilion, Lytham – Wednesday 26th November 2014

The newly renamed Lytham Anonymous Players brought the first of the festive cheer to the crowds at Lytham in the comedy written by Mike Harding.

The action is centred around events leading up to and including Christmas day with the theme playing strongly on the chaos and confusion that can surround the occasion. Goff is the eldest of the family and when we first meet him he is having a run in with some children passing off as carol singers and it is from the opening curtain that we can begin to see the strength of Harding’s comedy writing.

Margaret and Martin are playing hosts to the family Christmas, an event that from the outset you just know won’t go smoothly at all and as the big day draws closer anything that can go wrong eventually does. Split into two parts the first Act plays on the days leading up to Christmas leaving the second Act to focus on the day itself with its usual ups and downs.

Director Bob Gemmell had the difficult task of, not only having to direct a large ensemble, but to ensure the flow and pace of the piece were there with Harding’s quick fire jokes the real strength of the script. Blessed with a very experienced and well performed cast the story naturally started slowly and gradually built up throughout the course gathering all the Christmas related mishaps with it and churning them out into a very well performed and very funny play.

Ian Edmundson was simply superb as the cantankerous Goff who liked no better than to moan and get the odd joke in at every given opportunity. Edmundson thrived in bringing life to the character excelling in one of his finest comedic performances to date. He was supported by the wonderful Kirsten Burnett and David Arrow who played Margaret and Martin bringing a balance of characters to the story. Andrea Neville played Helen in a naturally realistic performance enhancing her comedic abilities in the second act. Jeff Redfern and Ann Dawson played Fiona and Jimmy. Fiona is Goff’s daughter who moved to Australia thirty years ago and comes back as part of a reunion. Both graced the stage with ease and superiority in their performance. There were also strong performances from Emily Cartmell and Tim Cave as Kathy and Crispin who arrive in typically hilarious style on Christmas morning and also Kathy Gemmell and Billy Charles whose grandchildren played by Lucy and Harry Gemmell (you may be getting the connection with the surname by now) enter the house towards the end to form part of a hilarious comedy moment. Last, but not least comes the brilliant cameo like appearances from Di and Roger Prutton as neighbours of Martin and Margaret who don’t quite appear to be who you think. The essence of the coupling was the superbly executed difference in characteristics which played beautifully with the rest of the cast.

As an ensemble the cast performed superbly really emphasising on the occasional melees during the festivities that we can all relate to. It is the bond between the cast members that allowed the story to flow with ease and often leaving you forgetting that you are watching a play, but instead watching an actual family.

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Harding’s script is full of seasonal gags and references to humour from an older generation which all proved very popular with the hundred plus crowd.

With only three performances as opposed to the usual four this year, Comfort and Joy is a must. One to feel festive, two to enjoy a good laugh and three to see a superbly performed play which improves with each passing moment.

The show is on at the Lowther Pavilion up to and including Friday 28th November. Please visit the Lowther website to book tickets.