Review: Matt’s a nightmare dad as cast shines

All the saltiness and stereoptypes of Mike Harding’s funny but distinctly unromantic wedding farce Fur Coat and No Knickers were expertly distilled by the cast of Burgess Hill Theatre Club.

A sell-out audience revelled in the sort of jokes that we thought had disappeared when PC Politically Correct started plodding the beat.

Fast-paced direction from debut-making Samantha Payne made sure the action was anything but plodding as the verbal barbs that turned in-laws into outlaws made their mark in the marital mayhem.

The scene where the stag party ends with the groom in a compromising position with a blow-up beauty by a lampost as the police arrive was one example of some excellently executed action bordering on slapstick.

Harding’s early background qualified him well for the earthy script that the cast handled with so much spirit and plenty of precision when it came to timing. All the prejudices and preconceptions he observed as road digger, refuse collector, steel erector, bus conductor, boiler scaler and chemical factory worker poured forth on the stage.

As father of the bride Matt Roberts, making a welcome return, was a magnificently played nightmare to his beautiful daughter (her end of play romp in bra and pants confirmed her status) Deidre, played with a nice mix of horror at his antics and loyalty by Rebecca Wilson.

Dad’s frequent outrageous jibes- “Hitler had the right idea”- were delivered without offence because Roberts made you feel on the night this man couldn’t be for real, even though post-war he certainly was.

Karen Carroll had the play’s most demanding role as the bride’s mother trying to keep her wilful family in check and generally carried it off with great aplomb, with the minor exception of a few hesitant moments, and she wittily ad-libbed a couple of times to get out of a spot, to the amusement of the audience.

The busy cast made full use of Geoff Twyman’s neat front stage stage extension and steps to keep the action moving.

Andrew Squires oozed confidence in a solid performance from the moment he revealed his guilty secrets as the groom while Graham Wood perfectly portrayed a grouchy grandad, Nip, who still had a juvenile sense of fun. Des Fitzpatrick enthusiastically captured the spirit of the sloshed Irish priest, though over-playing it a little at times.

Overall this was a fine team performance of a period piece of comedy, and the production deserves to have some success in the 2012 Brighton and Hove Drama Awards for which it was judged on opening night.