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Theatre review: Stroke of Luck at the Park Theatre

PUBLISHED: 08:53 06 February 2014

"Stroke Of Luck" production shot

© simonkanephotography.co.uk 2014

A quick dash from Finsbury Park tube station, through the drenching rain, and I am in the warm, lively atmosphere of this new theatre, which has already established a reputation for staging innovative new work.

Larry Belling’s debut play draws on his varied experience of commercial and artistic life, as well as of contemporary society.

Characters are observed with a witty detachment modified by sympathetic understanding and the action moves effortlessly between realism and farce. The well-constructed plot keeps the audience guessing, even if the conclusion is contrived. It is also a morality play, dealing with greed and guilt, family rivalry, poor parenting, friendship, love, you name it….

Central to this entertaining piece, is Tim Pigott-Smith’s masterly interpretation of elderly, wheelchair-bound Lester Riley, who announces he intends to marry his Japanese nurse (beguilingly played by Julia Sandford). In fact, the pair have a lively, symbiotic friendship, far removed from the conventional foolish-old-man-and-scheming-young-woman scenario imagined by his middle-aged children. The prospect of losing their considerable inheritance sends them into panic and brings out the worst in their unpleasant personalities.

Lester is physically helpless but has intelligence and cunning, plus a rollicking sense of humour, which his family fail completely to comprehend. His eldest son, Monroe, a greedy businessman, is played with convincing nastiness by Andrew Langtree. His second son, Ike (Fergal MacElherron) is a crook, recently released from jail. And his daughter, Cory, sympathetically interpreted by Kirsty Malpass, is insecure, compulsive and thoroughly mixed up. Lester’s fourth child, whom we never see, is permanently hospitalized. Aware that he is at least partly to blame for his unpleasant family, Lester devises a hilarious hoax which forces them to re-assess their attitudes, and Pamela Miles, as Lester’s dead wife, provides a counterbalance of true and lasting love.

Dominating the straightforward but ingenious set is a beautiful tree, which combines with the use of screens to impart a distinctly Japanese flavor, as does Theo Holloway’s witty sound design. Directed with pace by Kate Golledge, this play is hilarious entertainment for a dreary February evening and gives plenty of food for reflection.

****

Until 2nd March.

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