A Kick In The Baubles

Originally written by Gordon Steel for the Hull Truck theatre company A Kick in the Baubles is an edgy piece, combining the family chaos of Season’s Greetings with the dramatic discomfort of Abigail’s Party. There is humour, mixed in with a fair amount of tension and unease before an ending focused on reconciliation – something of a relief bearing in mind what has gone on before.

It’s Christmas in the Bailey household. They are just managing following Frank’s recent redundancy, but, as usual, Jean (Jo Longstaff) wants to make it memorable Christmas, while Frank (Keith Irons) frets about the cost, the fuss and the guests he would prefer not to see. One of these is Jean’s bigoted and rather grumpy sister Doreen (Michelle Hope), who is accompanied by her materialistic and lecherous businessman husband, Harry (Ian Hanmer). Dropping in uninvited are neighbours Gary (Alistair Burn) –  who sees himself as something of a karaoke king – and his rather too uninhibited wife Julie (Emma Simpson). Alex (Lissy Rawlings), Doreen and Harry’s daughter, calls to report the end of her romance and the subsequent making up. Finally, Milly Bailey (also played by Lissy Rawlings) and boyfriend Darren (Nick Raper) pay a surprise visit.

With the action chopped into 8 scenes the first act of the play can be difficult and hard to settle into, though many of the throw away lines are extremely funny. Some of the domestic mayhem spills over into the second half, with the huge falling out between Harry and Doreen and the spectacularly noisy love-making of Gary and Julie in the Bailey’s bed, but the plot finally resolves itself with the return of Milly.

As the play’s central character Frank, Keith did extremely well with a lot of lines and good comic timing, notably when offering the audience his observations on Christmas, women and his guests. Jo was ideal in her portrayal of Jean, the optimisitic foil to her grumpy husband, working hard to make this Christmas one to remember only to see it begin to turn into one she might want to forget.

Ian, making his debut on the Gainford stage as businessman and philanderer Harry, is very convincing, the discomfort of the relationship with Doreen nicely portrayed, while Michelle brings out Doreen’s snobbishness and her distrust of Harry, which increases as the play progresses.

Alistair and Emma played the outrageous neighbours, Gary and Julie perfectly with their imitations of noisy and embarrassing rock stars and the drunk and rather too familiar next door neighbour convincing and amusing.

Lissy is very good as the self-centred, clueless Alex and is touchingly authentic as the prodigal daughter Milly, who wants to make peace with her family. Nick, also making his debut, confidently plays the small but important role of Darren.

Lighting, costumes, musical links between scenes and set were well thought out and managed.

Overall, the cast did well, with good clear diction and trouble free movement round the stage, resulting in an entertaining night out for the appreciative audience. A surprise visit by the playwright, Gordon Steel and his wife, set the seal on a most enjoyable and successful production.