Writer and Director: John Godber
Reviewer: Andrew White
The premise alone of a play set in a skiing resort is enough to entice an audience into a theatre, if nothing else to see how it will be achieved.
This is a revival of John Godber’s 1990 original On the Piste, although significantly changed from the original version. It features two English couples who have gone away on a skiing holiday to Chamonix, never having attempted the sport before. Chris and Alison are 30-something well-to-do graduates, while Dave and Bev are younger and at the start of their relationship. Forced to share a ski instructor (the very manly Tony) the two couples must learn to get along for the duration of their holiday, despite being chalk and cheese.
Humour is present throughout, with a gag level some American situation comedies would be envious of. At first glance some of it might seem a tad predictable (the “Englishman abroad” for example), but it is very well observed.
Some excellent set pieces are exploited on a stuck ski lift, where one of the gang is afraid of heights and a sauna scene (complete with a naked bottom) with a level of embarrassment palpable throughout the audience.
The cast of five perform excellently throughout, but the standout performance is Roxanne Pallet who perhaps has a lot more to work with as Bev, but still enriching her with a deep sense of hapless sadness, while at the same time being the funny and dippy – quite an achievement. The other three characters, Bev’s boyfriend Dave (Matthew Stathers), Samantha Seager and Peter McMillan as the 30-something other couple, take time to develop and consequently get into their stride in the second half. Ski instructor Tony (Tom Rooke) is played with enough self-awareness of his own talents that you warm to what is actually a quite unlikeable character.
As the story develops into the second half, it becomes apparent that it’s not just the two different couples who are chalk and cheese, but the partners themselves. Here, the shaky foundations on which both of the two relationships are based become exposed and explode. However, those in the audience wanting a nicely wrapped up ending might be disappointed, with the only certainty being Tony preparing to welcome yet another group of novice English skiers to the resort.
Overall, a good story, very well acted with laughs a plenty.
Runs Until: 11th October 2014