Venue: The Lowry
Where: Salford

The Family
is a typically stylish and atmospheric production from Rogue Theatre. Unfortunately the script by Anna Maria Murphy is disappointingly thin and features clunky dialogue that sometimes seems to be aspiring to be so bad it is actually funny (‘bring me my box of things!’).

The story lacks cohesion and is little more than a series of incidents strung together. Although it is supposed to be a tribute to the Hammer Horror films it never achieves, or even reflects, their mixture of gothic horror and sadomasochistic soft-core porn.

To help get the audience in the mood for the family at dinner we are served hors d’oeuvre with thunder rumbling overhead. Barnaby Ray and Wendy Taylor provide suitable live music throughout the evening ranging from sinister background sounds to a three-o’clock-in -the- morning jazz vibe. The latter is particularly successful for the songs performed by Taylor and Anthoula Syndica Drummond that are well sung although they can hardly be said to advance the plot.

The family comprise brother and sister Rhoda and Vincent (Angelina Boscarelli and Ollie Oakenshield who also produce and direct), her daughter-in-law Millie (Drummond) and the maid Sally (Becky Bordeaux). At dinner they mourn the loss of other family members and Vincent lays plans for their re-animation.

The actors give us a variety of styles that do not always mesh together. Oakenshield goes for an ironic version of the mad scientist. Boscarelli gives a broad Rik Mayall approach, which borders on caricature. It is almost a relief that Bordeaux draws humour by playing the traditional maid who is wiser than might be expected with poker faced restraint.

The direction is sluggish but the show bursts into life when the dialogue ceases and the music and movement begins. In a scene that brings to mind the Addams Family, the brother and sister perform a duel that seamlessly incorporates athletic action, humour and magic tricks into a satisfying whole.

It takes ages to achieve Millie’s transformation into her previous diva persona but the vocal performance is worth the wait. The special effects / magic tricks, with ghosts appearing and then vanishing in full view of the audience, leave you wondering how the heck they pulled it off.

Rogue Theatre is a talented and enthusiastic company but on this occasion is let down by the material.

- Dave Cunningham