Nikki Wilcock enjoys John Godber's revival of his play On the Piste at Blackpool's Grand Theatre.
15 Oct 2014
It probably says more about the way my mind works, but having mixed the title itself with the early reference to a sexy sauna and a warning of nudity on arrival, I was half expecting some bawdy, double-entendre laden romp.
And given the setting – two very different couples holidaying in the French Alps and a hot ski instructor –you can see how a girl could get confused.
Instead John Godber takes us in a different direction, but that's not meant as a criticism. The reality was still a perfectly jocular way to spend a Tuesday night, a witty and character-led insight into the ups and downs of hitting the slopes for the very first time.
This particular trip brings out the best and worst in all four of them and it is fun to watch their relationships go up and down more times than a cable car.
Characters are well thought out and instantly recognisable – the one who's scared of heights and "just can't do physical things", the adventurous one who wants to try everything that's going, the stereotypical ski instructor paid to charm the ladies and boost the male egos until next week's crop of novices arrive.
The situations are familiar, too. Easy to predict, but just as easy to laugh at. One couple's failed attempts to be alone repeatedly foiled by fate, the inevitable insecurities when English man meets Gallic confidence in the aforementioned sauna, a drunken tryst at the apres-ski party.
There are some deeper moments in the second half (not everyone goes back home together), but even these are tinged with some mirth. How can you possibly take someone seriously when they're dressed in garish ski wear and sporting a hat that you can only get away with in the snow?
Programme notes reveal that this production was first penned in 1990, but if you did see the original, rest assured that the new tour has meant a reworking, with a wittier script carried off by some exemplary acting.
It was also interesting to learn that Godber and the Theatre Royal Wakefield have never previously brought a production to the Grand Theatre. What a pity there weren't more people to welcome them. A half empty house lessened the atmosphere in places and I'm certain the laughter would have been a lot more infectious otherwise.
That said, people did leave chuckling to themselves after being thoroughly entertained for just under two hours.
On The Piste runs nightly until 18 October with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday.