As such it follows a tried and trusted Hull Truck formula, with a hapless protagonist plunged into a threatening situation and surviving the twin dangers of self-delusion and class conflict. However, as well as providing the necessary laughs in profusion, Lane’s new play manages some neat twists to the familiar scenario.
My Favourite Summer uses a classic first play technique, being at least semi-autobiographical. Dave, an unemployed young actor, needs money urgently for a holiday to impress the young woman he is secretly devoted to before she heads off to New York to study for a Ph.D. The temporary job he takes with a scaffolding firm exposes him to the unthinking ragbag of appetites and prejudices that is Melvin, his work-mate, who quickly exposes the gauche innocence beneath his street-smart veneer.
Though the details of the unrequited love scenario have been much changed, the character of Melvin is so closely based on an actual person who terrified him into fleeing his Lincolnshire work-place 15 years ago that Lane has not even changed his name!
The identification of Dave with the playwright is used very effectively. On first entry Matthew Booth, whose understated performance nicely offsets the surrounding grotesques, starts to tell the audience about “his” play so that My Favourite Summer has two parallel plots: how callow Dave grew up and how mature Dave/Nick came to recycle experience as theatre.
The evening’s entertainment (plus the odd frisson of horror) has most to do with the character of Melvin, with his gruesome tales, casual threats and cave-man seduction techniques. The excellent Marc Bolton is appallingly amusing without resorting to caricature and also shifts smoothly into character as the other male parts. So, too, does Fiona Wass in a variety of female roles, though she never fully convinces in the under-written part of Sarah, the Anthropology Ph.D.
Nick Lane’s play uses the episodic format familiar to Hull Truck audiences, but both script and direction create a sense of unity. After Hull the production embarks on a tour of 41 performances in 37 venues, so it would be churlish to complain that Graham Kirk’s designs are no more than functional. John Boddy’s costumes are a great help to instant characterisation.
- Ron Simpson (reviewed at the Hull Truck Theatre)