Theatre review - Fur Coat and No Knickers, Thwaites Empire Theatre, Blackburn
PUBLISHED: 20:13 30 September 2017 | UPDATED: 20:13 30 September 2017
The Thwaites Empire Theatre in Blackburn was transported back to the 70's as Blackburn Drama Club performed the raucous, yet very popular Mike Harding play, "Fur Coat and No Knickers".
The Ollerenshawe family reside in a small town in Lancashire. Deidre, daughter of Kevin and Edith, is due to marry her fiancé, Mark Greenhalgh. Mark is son to Ronald and Muriel Greenhalgh and was born into money. The difference between the two families in terms of their values and beliefs is evident, but is part of the magic of Harding’s story. During the course of the first Act, we are slowly introduced to the characters and their ways of life. Harry Ollerenshawe is the youngest of the family who can’t hold down a job and is more interested in the opposite sex, Peter Ollerenshawe is his older brother, with pen in hand and dreams of becoming a writer, he works as a part-time journalist learning all the glory details about the residents of the village for the local paper. Then there is Edith’s father, George Albert, or Nip to his friends, whose life revolves around trips to the pub and, much like his grandson, the opposite sex.
The plot is simple. A couple are getting married, so the story details all of the anxieties of the big day, but the process is as to be expected. There is a stag party, the morning after, the church and the reception. It is Harding’s method of taking this journey from A to B, with various comical detours along the way and inclusion of some of the funniest dialogue that gives this story that sparkle. To honour the hugely funny script required a cast that could do it justice, to deliver the lines exactly the way that Mike Harding would have wanted and to add that important pace and timing. From the first entrance it was clear that this was going to be the case.
Sarah Nolan has made a brave choice with her directorial debut. The story is told on different levels and with such pace that everything had to be honed down to perfection. Every change and every movement needed to be quick and the audience had to be carried along with it. Mike Harding would have been extremely proud of Sarah’s direction of this hilarious venture and also the fantastic cast who delivered the story brilliantly.
It isn’t often that a play is so well cast that it adds something so much more to a story, but everyone worked superbly together. They became the characters and delivered one of the funniest performances I have witnessed on an amateur stage, that could well have been professional. Anne Marie Flood played the role of Edith Ollerenshawe, the mother of the family who, at times, gave us a bit of a Hilda Ogden-esque feel to her performance. Her entrance into the story really painted the picture of the heights of expectation from the rest of the cast and we were not disappointed. Gary Waugh and James Lilley played brothers Harry and Peter and could have been brothers in real life, the chemistry in their performance together worked beautifully. Declan Cowell played the role of the father, Kevin Ollerenshawe and made the role his own in his own unique way. John Orgill will have to take special credit for his performance as the Grandfather, Nip. Not only did he have some of the plays greatest lines, he delivered them superbly, often leaving the rest of the cast hanging on waiting for the laughter throughout the auditorium to die down. Naz Shafaq and Ayub Patel played Mark and his best man, Hamish, respectively. They were a very different piece of the puzzle, but they made their characters loveable and blended themselves in well with the rest of the story. Martin Cottam played the Irish priest, Father Finbar Molloy, holding onto his Irish accent with ease and becoming quite an important and often erratic character.
The cast were flanked by wonderful support, often taking on various roles and guises to help tell the story and from the team helping out behind the stage. The scene changes were helped by pieces of music from the era which had the audience singing along and becoming a part of the story, another piece of proof that Sarah Nolan has given us a truly memorable debut as a director and I don’t think it will be long before she directs again.
All in all, another wonderful performance from Blackburn Drama Club who never put on a bad show and a perfect start to the weekend.