Garden gnomes and aspirations abound in the latest Chesil Theatre production of Willy Russell’s One for the Road. Better known for Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita, Russell’s trademark humour is evident in this play.
Unusually, the cast were all making their Chesil debuts, as was Director, Jim Glaister, with his first full-length play. They made the most of a script full of wit and an audience who came prepared to be entertained. The whole play had pace and energy.
The set had an authenticity that perfectly conveyed us to a 1980s bungalow on a middle-class suburban housing estate which, though nominally set in the north of England, could be anywhere.
Andrew Jenks played Dennis Cain not only with humour and spot-on comic timing but also with a yearning sadness at the emptiness of his life and a sense of loss at what might have been as he stands poised on the divide between youth and middle age. Anna Rose gave a well-judged performance as Jane Fuller, brimming with self-righteous assertiveness until the moment when she realises that she has lost sight of the girl she once was. Pauline Cain, confidently portrayed by Helen Symes, was the perfect foil for both Dennis and Jane and the dynamics between the two women worked particularly well. Lukas Curnow as Roger Fuller, slightly confusingly styled to look like Dana Carvey in the 1992 film Wayne’s World, nonetheless conveyed a range of emotions with his facial expressions that added much to the comedy of the play.
Willy Russell steadily pokes fun at the aspirations of the upwardly mobile with his choice of classical composers for street names, the beheading of the estate garden gnomes and the women’s insistence on referring to cottage pie as hachis parmentier. Tension built throughout the play as Dennis’ parents went missing and the dinner, literally, went up in smoke. A thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable evening was had by an audience who were able to appreciate the many 80s references and jokes.
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