Making a welcome return to Salisbury Playhouse, following its première in 2014, is Chris Chibnall’s play Worst Wedding Ever. Following its residency here it heads out on a brief tour, taking in Ipswich and Hornchurch.
All Rachel and Scott want is a simple, no-frills wedding – but Liz (Rachel’s mum) has other ideas… Almost without realising it, they’re talked into having a big wedding – but as they don’t have the money for it, it’s all hands on deck for an “austerity wedding” in the family’s back garden. Once Rachel convinces her mum that she has to have oversight of the whole thing, the bride and groom begin to have confidence in the plan – after all, what could possibly go wrong..?
As you can probably guess from the title, things don’t go as smoothly as everyone hopes. But far from it being an all-out disaster comedy, at its heart is an emotional core that hits you when you least expect it; the show would certainly still work as a straightforward comedy, but it wouldn’t have nearly enough warmth and depth.
Another nice touch is a short pre-show set from the wedding band, Mike & The Melbury Osmonds, in the foyer before entering the theatre. It sets the tone for the show perfectly and is a great way to see a bit more of Mike (Lloyd Gorman), Colin (Chris Talman) and Brian (Dan Smith), as their main role during the show is to punctuate each scene with a relatively appropriate song. And you never quite know where they’re going to appear from next!
The action takes place nearly exclusively in the family’s garden – James Button’s set is very lifelike, with lots of potential to surprise. Button certainly makes the most of any space that’s available, from the spots for the band to simulating John Lewis.
The cast are all fantastically hilarious – their timing is spot on, as well as committing fully to any physical comedy. Derek Frood almost steals the show as Rachel’s dad Mel, from his rants about the neighbours to his love for his dogs (Gandalf and Frodo); there is never a dull moment when he’s onstage. And opposite him as Liz, Julia Hills is the epitome of a pushy parent doing her best to take control of the wedding plans – though she seamlessly makes the transition from funny to moving when we discover why she’s quite so adamant about it.
My verdict? Hysterically funny and with lots of heart, it may be the Worst Wedding Ever but that certainly doesn’t reflect the quality of the show – save the date now!
Worst Wedding Ever runs at Salisbury Playhouse until 22 February 2017. Tickets are available online or from the box office. It then heads to New Wolsey Theatre (Ipswich) from 1-11 March 2017 and Queen’s Theatre (Hornchurch) from 15 March until 1 April 2017.