Sunday, 11 November 2007

No Place Like Home - New Wimbledon

There’s No Place Like A Home by Paul Elliott
New Wimbledon Theatre

Director: Chris Colby
Reviewed by Tom Ryan

There is a moment in the first act of There's No Place Like A Home - the writing debut producing veteran Paul Elliott - where one of the group of ageing actors voices a desire for one last great show for them all. With a cast full of familiar faces, the team behind this production had clearly hoped for the same, but sadly they, and the audience, are likely to be left disappointed.

Set in the Stollberg Hall Retirement Home for Theatrical Performers, the play focuses on the reaction of the residents and staff to the news that closure is imminent. Lacking any money of their own, they look beyond the law and in no time at all a plan is hatched that, without giving too much away sets the scene for “a geriactric version of Ocean’s 11”, as one character puts it.

There is a definite old-fashioned sitcom feel about the piece, perhaps unsurprisingly given the likes of presence of former ‘Allo ‘Allo stars Gordon Kaye and Sue Hodge on stage, together with onetime Coronation Street light relief Ken Morley and children’s TV favourite Brian Cant. However, thoughts that they could match their former glories are quickly dashed by some faltering performances and a weak script that prizes jokes over plot – which wouldn’t be such a problem if they were funnier, or there were less of them. There are a few nice moments here and there, with some strong performances, in particular from Christopher Beeny and Jan Hunt, with a typically energetic showing from Hunt’s former Crackerjack co-star Don Maclean, but its not quite enough to power the play through.

Elliott is clearly very fond of his characters and the world they inhabit, and with a long history of producing plays in the West End and across the country has given a lot of pleasure to audiences but his first writing effort didn’t match my expectations. I hope though that any follow ups hit the mark better, and that his illustrious cast members do get that one last great show.

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