Monday, 25 April 2016

Review Silver Gym

Silver Gym
By Nichola McAuliffe

Stepping Out

Off to the heart of Essex, Hornchurch, where Daniel Radcliffe took his driving test (beep, beep kudos to you Dan!), home of the eponymous Kathy in Paul Simon's hit written for his English love Kathy's Song - and of the Queen's Theatre in Billet Lane.   

We came to see Silver Gym, a new comedy by actress and writer Nichola McAuliffe.  She plays Stella, ex military police, who has sunk her life savings into a lease from the council for a gym housed in a run-down building covenanted as a "community asset"  - unless the building is condemned allowing vulture developers to make their move

So far, so good. But it has to be said, we found it more of a situation comedy on stage than a play and a pilot episode to boot, introducing the characters and familiar situations 

There were some gestures towards theatricality a subtext indicating the history of women and money. And maybe, just maybe, the glib but double edged finale with a chorus of Dem Bones has a resonance in our all-too-connected world.

Nevertheless, whether it should at this point have been put on stage as a fully-fledged play is debateable.

There were some dubious jokes which could be misconstrued. Meanwhile,stereotypes abounded.. The ditsy blonde - well actually the Yorkshire-born Chinese airhead (Houmi Miura); the pious Nigerian wife in a niqab, trainers and sweat band (Susan Aderin); the Jamaican housing officer now on the dole (Suzanna Bygrave); the Liverpuddlian armed robber's wife (Pauline Daniels); the Jewish pole dancer (Kim Ismay) and the secretive posh housewife seeking IVF (Carol Sloman).  

The one man is the singing Barbadian grocer Franklyn (Peter Straker) who uses the facilities of Silver Gym to prop up his business.  We could see the main plot twist coming from several treadmills away, but, in between it all, frustratingly, there were glimses of building blocks for something far edgier and wittier.

McAuliffe is sturdy Captain Stella trying to make her mark on civvy street and deal methodically with the chaos around her. This all has a down-to-earth plausibility and could be an interesting anchor for a comedy drama.

Director Glen Walford, designer Amy Yardly, lighting man Mark Jonathan and sound from Dan Crews allowed the sitcom scenes to transition smoothly.

There was enough in place to make TLT and her own number-plated second-in-command to believe it could be developed for stage or broadcast - including the missing character, another unnamed armed forces' veteran described inn a throw-away joke who uses his prosthetic leg in creative ways.  

So, it was mildly amusing in parts, cringe-making in others. And it's almost like the traffic lights are shorting, jumping from red to amber to red, back to amber and, oops, it's red again! But somehow it eventually just about flickers into a amber  light, as golden as the sunflower peeping through on stage at one point,  for the idea and determined performances by the cast who insured the show must go on.


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