Enjoy is not vintage Bennett but to witness Alison Steadman's performance as Connie Craven is worth the ticket price alone.
Set in Leeds the play tells the story of an elderly couple who live in a back to back house which is due to be demolished. The council decide the residents should be observed and a silent observer is despatched to each property.
At first Connie Craven and her husband Wilfred (David Troughton) try to impress their silent observer, Ms Craig, but when their wayward daughter, Linda (Josie Walker) arrives the facade soon starts to crumble. The layers soon peel away on the couple’s life as we discover they have a son whose name Wilfred will not allow to be mentioned. Connie we learn, is suffering from memory loss as she struggles to look after her husband, who is the victim of a hit and run driver and has a metal plate in his head.
The first Act starts off well but then becomes uneven as we leave the comedy behind and witness the daughter coming home to pack, ready to start a new life as a married woman to a Saudi prince. She even has a Rolls Royce come to pick her up, but as her parents sample drinks from the cocktail cabinet of the vehicle, she becomes extremely friendly with the chauffeur and ends up rolling on the floor with him in front of the observer.
Act 2 is much more successful, with a host of characters, each having their own observer, entering the Cravens small home and show Bennett at his best. Carol Macready as neighbour Mrs. Clegg is the most memorable of these as she comes to help Connie in her hour of need after Wilfred apparently dies. As she assists Connie prepare the body, by stripping Wilfred and washing him, we have the best comedy moments of the piece.
While the end is fairly predictable and the true identity of Ms Craig can be seen a mile off, Janet Birds design of the small end terrace house cannot. The set literally opens up and is dismantled by most of the cast while the others keep the story going, until we are left with a bare stage. While extremely cleaver it does detract from the final moments as you watch the disappearing set rather than the actors.
When first produced in 1980 Enjoy was not a hit, but this revival which has enjoyed a successful West End run with the same cast is another matter. Enjoy may not be the best Alan Bennett play but Alison Steadman more than makes up for that.