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Full House (Salford)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Venue: The Lowry
Where: Salford

Social climber Cherie (Jeni Howarth-Williams) is outraged to find that her husband John (Wayne Allsop) has been unable to raise the capital to buy outright their country estate. They have to share it with Riley (Richard Sallis) and his eccentric family. Noting that Riley’s health is not good the couple begin to lay plans but the arrival of hunky gardener Mark (Stephen Myott) makes Cherie wonder if one corpse will be enough.
Given a decent script - Howarth- Williams is skilled enough to create a memorable monster in the style of Mike Leigh’s Abigail. Unfortunately for her and us, writer Mike Heath does not deliver the goods. One can forgive the odd lapse of logic in a comedy (a mobile phone call being made after it has been established there is no signal) as long as it is funny.

And to be successful, black comedy has to be funny enough to create an atmosphere of hysteria so that you are unable to refrain from laughing at situations that are actually frightening or in poor taste. Full House just does not have enough comic situations or jokes to maintain (or even establish) such a mood. The characters are poorly developed and lack substance so that you don’t care if they live or die.
Financial limitations prevent Katie O’ Brien from designing a set in which corpses and lovers can be concealed. Leading to unrealistic situations where the cast have to pretend not to notice what is quite literally under their noses.
Sarah Meadows uses swing music to create a jaunty tone that is nicely at odds with the diabolical goings on at the estate. But she is unable to put the cast at ease in the physical comedy scenes that look stiff and unconvincing. She misjudges the end of act one - freezing the gifted Howarth-Williams in a tableau that goes on so long you start to worry there might have been a technical malfunction.  
Sadly, Full House is a black comedy that is neither funny nor dark enough to succeed.
- Dave Cunningham

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