mon 15/07/2024

Stroke of Luck, Park Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Stroke of Luck, Park Theatre

Stroke of Luck, Park Theatre

Tim Pigott-Smith in new American comedy of life, love and death

High jinks: Lily (Julia Sandiford) and Lester (Tim Pigott-Smith) plan their future Simon Kane

In 2011 Tim Pigott-Smith gave us an impressive, humane King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Here he is again, a patriarch learning how "sharper than a serpent's tooth" it is to have thankless children, but this time his character decides to do something about it and to acknowledge his own failings. The result is good-natured comedy rather than tragedy.

Lester (Pigott-Smith), a Long Island television repairman, has had a stroke and is bedridden in a care home. His wife has recently died and his fractious family - two sons and a daughter - has been drawn together by circumstance almost against their will, certainly against their habit of non-communication with one another. Each has long-term problems or character faults all-too-easily laid at the door of poor parenting. Another brother, suffering from mental illness, is in an institution. Lester announces that he plans to marry his pretty young Japanese nurse just as his children discover that their father has been squirrelling away a fortune earned as the repairman of choice, and subsequently investment broker, to the local mobsters. Naturally, the siblings express volubly their fear of losing this unexpected inheritance.

Lester (Tim Pigott-Smith) is visited by Helen (Pamela Miles)The cast is first-rate, each of the adult children - grasping financier Monroe (Andrew Langtree), drunken ex-con Ike (Fergal McElherron) and OCD-sufferer Cory (Kirsty Malpass) - given the chance to open up in turn to old Lester. Julia Sandiford as Nurse Lily has fewer opportunities, being mainly a pretty plot device, but Pamela Miles (Pigott-Smith's real-life wife) as the dead Helen appearing in Lester's fantasies (pictured right) completes the notion of a perfect loving marriage. At the centre of it all is Pigott-Smith, his mouth slightly twisted, his left leg and arm immobile. His Lester seems to be enjoying himself enormously, taking childish pleasure in his machinations and making a good case for looking mortality in the eye and refusing to flinch. This is no Lear, but it is a part which the older actor can relish.

Playwright Larry Belling asks for fluid design in his script and Bob Bailey has come up with a solution - five revolving flats making up a Japanese-style back wall - which responds to that pretty well, so that a care home can become a church or a living room within seconds. Kate Golledge's direction can't quite hide the fact that things only really get going after the interval, but then matters rush nicely to a head.

Belling is a septuagenarian first-time playwright - and hooray for that. He has worked in different areas of theatre and the music business, such as press and marketing, and knows a thing or two about deft dialogue and neat structure. There are jokes enough (although some risk being tedious: Uncle Barry's preference for clichés and ill-pronounced Spanish phrases is overworked) but the overall effect is somewhat sentimental and the structure a little too neat. There is a twist which it would be a shame to give away; suffice it to say that this is ultimately a celebration of the America of motherhood and apple pie. It is difficult to deny the warmth of Belling's debut, however. The old have something to teach the young after all.

Lester seems to be enjoying himself enormously, taking childish pleasure in his machinations and making a good case for looking mortality in the eye and refusing to flinch


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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