In the opening scene of the play we see a husband and wife having a very familiar, and very heated, discussion. “He treats this place like a hotel”, “Have you seen the state of his room!” and “He stays out all night and sleeps all day” are just a few of the familiar phrases to be bandied about.
However, this conversation has a wonderful twist for it is not some wayward teenager that they are discussing. The couple are Richard and Sue, played by David Lonsdale and Michelle Morris and the object of their discussion is actually Sue’s father. Recently widowed, he is dealing with his grief and loss by living life to the extreme and growing old very disgracefully.
Lonsdale and Morris play the frustrated couple very well, she as the understanding daughter who keeps making excuses for her father, and he as the pent-up, irritated son-in-law who would like to have his life, and his house, back as it used to be.
The action takes place in the build-up to a wedding, as two members of the Over 60s club to which father belongs are about to tie the knot. Tom and Julia – John D Collins and Daphne Sherman – are the rather staid couple, who are being “led astray” with excessive drinking, all-night parties and other forms of misbehaviour in the build-up to their nuptials.
Katy Manning plays the fourth member of the “gang”, Rose – who, despite her feisty and defiant exterior, actually adores Sue’s father and secretly wishes that there was a place in his life for her. We know how Rose feels about him because his recently departed wife Grace, played with lashings of sentiment by Ingrid Evans, tells him so in one of the many bitter-sweet conversations that they have.
Poignant and touching, these conversations are a brilliant counterpoint to the farcical mayhem that is happening all around. Gordon “Brooksie” Brooks is the wayward father and he is played to perfection by Melvyn Hayes, fondly remembered as Gunner “Gloria” Beaumont from the television series It Ain’t ‘Alf Hot, Mum.
From the moment he arrives on stage, in full motor cycle leathers and crash helmet through to the heartbreaking chats with his sadly departed wife, he works every moment for all its comedic or tragic worth. The second act is mainly devoted to the morning of the wedding and Hayes as the – not quite hung-over because he’s still actually drunk – best man trying to remember exactly what happened to the groom is a comic tour-de-force.
Of course, as with any farce, no matter how bizarre the situation gets, things always seem to sort themselves out in the end and this production is no exception. The piece may be a bit dated, but looking around the appreciative Worthing audience, I could see many an old eye with a renewed sparkle in it – and maybe the hint of a desire to follow in Brooksie’s wayward footsteps.