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BWW Reviews: HATCHED 'N' DISPATCHED, Park Theatre, September 2 2015

What grand entertainment! Hatched 'n' Dispatched (at the Park Theatre until 26 September) is at times crude, at times predictable, at times derivative, but it's very funny indeed, wonderfully well performed and precisely what I needed after a long day reading emails. It may be old-fashioned, but the jokes still work - so why not?

It's 1959 and Dorothy Needham (Wendi Peters in magnificent form, channelling the best - and worst - of Beverley from Abigail's Party and Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances) is dominating her family as usual, the clan brought together for a joint christening and funeral (quite!). She bullies her childless daughter Madeleine (Vicky Binns) and her dopey husband Oliver (Matthew Fraser Holland showstoppingly impressive) but dotes on her favourite son Kenneth (James Wrighton, all suppressed testosterone) while attacking his wife Corinne (Danielle Flett in uber sexpot mode). There's a super turn from Diana Vickers as ditzy blonde Susan, while the emotional heart of the family from hell is carried with great skill by Wendy Morgan and Kevin McGowan.

It's an ensemble piece delivered in the Park Theatre's studio space meaning that there's absolutely no room at all for a dud among the actors - so writers Gemma Page and Michael Kirk owe a debt of gratitude to casting director Anne Vosser who could not have done better in a job so crucial for any new comedy. Hats off too to PJ McEvoy's set and costume design, evoking the period so well it made my skin crawl!

Does it matter if you've seen these characters and situations before? Does it matter if the family secrets are hardly surprising? Does it matter if one or two setpieces are a little far-fetched? I don't think so - and many younger theatregoers won't have seen any of the BBC's Play for Today series or the classic 70s sitcoms, nor even American Pie, all of which sprung to mind at times. And, if you're spending half the time laughing (and the laughs are big and loud in this show) and half cringing, who cares?

This production probably does have some important things to say about a working class way of life now gone forever and also about the role of women in the decade before Women's Lib - and it certainly rebuts Phillip Larkin's contention that sex was invented in 1963. But all that is secondary to the getting of laughs: never an easy brief delivered here with great aplomb. Oh, it also includes the very best swearing I have ever seen on stage, something almost every play gets wrong!

Though some of its references might puzzle the tourists, I can see a West End transfer working well, especially if the same cast is retained. So why not see it now - at Finsbury Park prices - as long as you don't mind a bit of snow white bum, snowballs and snogging.



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From This Author Gary Naylor