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Weekend Breaks (tour – Cambridge, Arts Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Many of us can sympathise with Martin Dawson. He’s 33 years old and his elderly parents are still nagging him to get a proper job. Martin, played by Robert Hudson, is a drama teacher-cum-aspiring TV writer and has just gone through an acrimonious relationship break-up. His bolt-hole in Whitby, North Yorkshire, may be only 90 miles from his parents’ in Doncaster but they may as well be on different planets, and his work trips to London are in a galaxy far, far away.

Crone-mum Joan (Christine Cox) has warned from the start that Martin was getting ideas above his station and is now languishing in scathing “I-told-you-sos” and laying into Martin’s self-esteem at any and every opportunity. Bland curmudgeon-dad Len (William Ilkley) is the only thing keeping Joan and himself from an early grave as tensions mount on the eponymous weekend break at Martin’s coastal cottage.

It’s not that Martin doesn’t love his parents; he’s just firm in his belief that anyone over the age of 60 should sit a life-or-death examination – “If they can’t answer a few simple questions or successfully back up a caravan, then termination!”.

Performed as a retrospective stand-up routine by the 41-year-old Martin, Weekend Breaks is pure John Godber and this co-production between his post-Hull Truck venture – the John Godber Company– and the Theatre Royal Wakefield rattles along, packed with Godber’s trademark laconic wit.

Pip Leckenby’s sparse though effective set underscores perfectly the upwardly mobile protagonist’s growing determination to see pivotal events in his life through a film-maker’s objective eye. And it’s only when this dysfunctional family suffers a crisis does Martin begin to view his parents for the three-dimensional people they are, rather than the Coronation Street and Countdown caricatures he has created in his head.

First produced in 1997, Weekend Breaks may lack the zesty punch of The Debt Collectors or the sideways-glance social commentary of either Bouncers or Teechers, but it still is relevant in 2012 and will surely continue to amuse. 


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