Patrick Marlowe’s new play, premiered by Connaught Productions, is an engaging piece of frivolity, set in a British seaside resort which is probably not all that far from Frinton. Or Southwold. Or…wherever on the coast of south-east England you will find candy-coloured beach-huts, lovingly maintained and just as much the owner’s castle as any other residence.
Mind you, a lot does depend on your neighbours. When Roger (Matthew Townshend) and Denise (Nicola Goodchild) arrive at their own hut, it is to find that the one next-door has changed hands. And the new neighbours are definitely not “our sort of people”. Don (Antony Gabriel) is – to put it mildly – brash. Michelle (Madeleine Joseph) is a sulky teenager with more than the usual crop of hang-ups.
As misunderstandings mount up, Roger’s DIY attempts take a succession of tumbles and Denise drinks far too much white wine on an empty stomach, so the fun multiplies. You could say that it’s a classic French farce given a very English twist. Edward Max’s production is fast-moving and the un-credited set – the two beach-huts – properly fill most of the stage.
All four performers are good. Goodchild has just the right sort of edginess for Denise, married for 20 increasingly frustrating years, and Jospeh has the sort of face and body hunches which convey young Shell’s own frustrations without saying a word. The two men also contrast well, with Townsend so much the typical male chauvinist pig that the audience rejoices in every mishap which befalls him. Gabriel is also very funny throughout.