There is nothing worse than a half-hearted farce – but thankfully this is full-on comedy.
The Mill at Sonning is chuckling through Christmas with Ray Cooney’s IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY and it’s a great big helping of festive cheer.
For starters, it is set in the doctors’ common room of a London hospital, which gives scope for everything from oversized syringes and hanky-panky in the sluice room to confused but hilarious patients in pyjamas and out-of-control wheelchairs. Centre stage in this fast and impeccably-timed romp is Michael Cochrane as Dr David Mortimore, who is preparing to give a lecture on which his knighthood depends. Despite its importance to him, colleagues seem much more interested in the play they are rehearsing for Christmas – but things really start to shoot out of control when a former nurse arrives. Following her is the raging 18 year old result of her dalliance in the sluice room with Dr Mortimore – and the deceits and outrageous cover-ups that follow are pure farce, balloons up the jumper and all, beautifully done under the fine direction of Ron Aldridge.
This play has a cast of 11, which is large for a production at The Mill, but there isn’t one weak link. Richard Derrington is great as the apparently totally ineffectual Dr Hubert Bonney, who comes up with a fine line in song and dance in crisis and continues to surprise everyone right up to the happy (albeit unlikely) end.
Damian Hunt’s performance as Leslie, the drink-fuelled teen determined to find daddy, is pure adolescent with attitude, while Abi Harris makes a good job of being his doting but decidedly challenged mum.
Jacqueline Clarke’s matron is everything a comedy matron should be, and more (like window sill acrobat – go and see it!).
Patrick Lennox’s portrayal as fun-loving Dr Mike Connolly is great entertainment, while Belinda Carroll certainly has the last laugh as Dr Mortimore’s long-suffering wife.
Veteran real-life couple Dennis Ramsden (hospital big-wig Sir Willoughby Drake) and Christine Russell (Dr Bonney’s mother) prove the ability to play farce well can be like fine wine, and just get better and better.
Darren Machin , as the confused but highly funny police sergeant, doesn’t miss a chance to make the audience laugh – but there is one Christmas star who shone just a little brighter for me.
I wanted to take Bill (Patrick Monckton) home with me, to keep in the cupboard under the stairs and wheel out whenever my sense of humour fails. A man wearing pyjamas and sitting in a wheelchair, who actually has very little to do with the plot and precious few lines, doesn’t sound at all funny – but this performance is an absolute comedy gem.