Writer, Music &Lyrics: Tim Firth
Director: Daniel Evans
Reviewer: Fiona Hannon
This was a special evening for Sheffield Theatres as they proudly unveiled the results of The Lyceum Theatre’s nine week refurbishment programme. This grand Grade II* listed theatre now twinkling with new lights, new cables, new carpets, new upholstery and 1000 litres of fresh new paint, glowed as a packed audience delighted in it’s make over.
To launch the newly upgraded theatre and the new season, Sheffield Theatre’s Artistic Director Daniel Evans has moved last year’s success This is my Family from the Studio Theatre to the stage of The Lyceum. As Evans says in his welcome message, “New musicals are rare beasts. New British musicals are even rarer”. Imagine then how rare new British musicals of this quality are?
Originally performed (and selling out) on a thrust stage at Sheffield’s intimate Studio Theatre in June 2013, This is my Family won the UK Theatre Award for Best Musical Production. Now performed in a much larger traditional proscenium theatre, the production has lost none of its charm and warmth.
The audience is instantly engaged from the very first moments when 13 year old Nicky (played by Evelyn Hoskins) tells the audience about her family. Nicky has won a competition to take her family away on holiday, but where will she decide to take them? Hoskins is completely convincing in her portrayal of Nicky, alternating between wide eyed excitement and dissatisfaction with her world, all with a beautiful clear singing voice.
The family is completed by Mum, Yvonne (Clare Burt) pacifying those around her and smiling when things are at their worst; Dad, Steve (Bill Champion) offering solutions to everyone’s problems and coming to terms with being 41; Brother, Matt (Terence Keeley) a wonderfully indecipherable 17 year old goth; Grandma, May (Marjorie Yates) remaining dignified while struggling with the first signs of dementia; and Aunt, Sian (Rachel Lumberg) loud, warm and full of fun. The on-stage chemistry between these six actors is wonderful with fast paced performances, all laugh out loud funny and deeply touching. All the characters are completely believable and instantly recognisable; this is a family that anyone would want to be part of.
Both the text and the music of This is my Family have been written by Tim Firth, author of Calendar Girls, Our House, Kinky Boots and The Flint Street Nativity. Firth perfectly captures the grumpiness, the teasing, the arguments and the affection of close family members. He is master of the seamless progression from speech to song with none of the pregnant pauses or self-conscious introductions that feature in so many musicals. The audience is constantly engaged; laugh too long and you’re in danger of missing the next glorious dead pan come-back.
Designer Richard Kent’s set works beautifully. A modern take on a doll’s house with multiple levels for the family to move around. Every available space is packed full of everyday objects for modern living and emphasises the closed space that the family operates in. Kent is working with Sheffield Theatres again this year as designer for The Crucible’s Christmas production Anything Goes.
This show will leave your jaw aching from laughter and your face wet with tears. You’d be a fool to miss it.
Runs until: 18th October 2014