Monday, 1 April 2013

Review: I Love Derby. Hardgraft Theatre Company

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

Originally posted at

“Nothing at all ordinary about this comedy”

The comic story of Joyce and Burt Priory and their extraordinary day is heralded by an engaging and lively postman (David Crowely) who immediately connects with the audience to get them in the mood for the localised comedy written by Mark Whiteley of Hardgraft Theatre Company.

We discover frizzy haired Joyce Priory (Rayyah McCaul) as she is opening the charity shop as a volunteer. She is excited at the prospect of meeting Darren Dawes – a new pop sensation – who has been scheduled to officially open the new charity shop. Otherwise it is just an ordinary day. Things are about to dramatically change and take the ordinary into the extraordinary, with hilarious and touching consequences. The interval literally ends with a bang as a carrier bag containing a revolver, a ski mask and a tatty paper bag full of fifty pound notes is found in the charity shop and threatens to throw a spanner in the works of this ordinary day. Has the husband been killed? What will they do with the money? Will Darren Dawes turn up?

The writer, Mark Whitely, also plays Burt Priory in this fast paced production and there is a great sense of fun and camaraderie between the three players, McCaul, Crowely and Whiteley. McCaul and Whiteley particularly shine as a very believable and lovable husband and wife team on the horns of several comical and moral dilemmas. Their witty dialogue often has the audience in tears of laughter and spontaneous clapping during the play. This is especially true during a very amusing, partly mimed reconstruction, of husband Burt giving his terribly nervous wife a driving lesson.

Overall this production is enhanced by great comic timing and lovable, well drawn characters. It is obviously written from the heart. Croweley offers great support work through his humorous interpretations of the postman, a policeman and a potential cross dresser.

As you might expect in a play called I Love Derby there are references a plenty to the city of Derby that amused the appreciative Derby audience. As this is a touring production and changes its town name at each venue the writer and cast have to be applauded for working with the changes and keeping the comedy fresh for each new audience.

The set design was a simple set of screens festooned with clothes and detritus that one might find in any charity shop across the UK. The sound effects were spot on, often helping the action along and creating comic moments of its own.

The play at the Derby Guildhall is well directed by Keith Hukin who also directs for Yorkshire’s Reform Theatre.

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