National Operatic & Dramatic Association
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Happy Families


2nd February 2013


The Phoenix Theatre Company


Rotherham Arts College Theatre

Type of Production



Neil Mather


Author: Les Smith

There is nothing better to lift your spirits on a cold February night than a good old belly laugh and this play was just what the Doctor ordered. From the start of the play until the final curtain it was filled with laughter and pathos, it tells the story of John, who we presume is the young author John Godber, as his life unfurls from his young teenage years through to his early twenties when he has graduated and become a teacher at his old school. In the role of John was Lee Sanderson who not only played the part to perfection but was also the narrator during the piece, Lee was excellent developing from the impish schoolboy who manages to turn his whole body around, but not his trousers, whilst playing Doctors and Nurses with his young female friend Lynn played by Claire Martin.This was hilarious and I would think most of the audience would be able to relate to this experience. There was plenty of laughter in this play as I have said, but there was also a good amount of pathos such as when John’s grandmother played by Julie Webb died, there was a very moving scene when his grandfather played by Frank Bardsley was reminiscing with John about his life and marriage with his late wife, she was, however also on stage dressed in white to depict she had died and delivered some brilliant one-liners about their time together. Both Julie and Frank gave very convincing performances, especially Julie who, for what must have appeared to be an age, had to sit on a chair in stage and then come in with the odd line, no chance to nod off! There was a very strong cast with no weak links at all, all the actors having their own character and all were able to sustain it throughout the whole play. I am sure the majority of the people in the audience would be able to relate to the actions on stage and also the characters being portrayed including the arguments which seemed to come out of nowhere causing huge fall outs, especially between John’s mother played by Sue Martin and her long suffering husband Vic played by Mark Stones.You could imagine this couple had been together quite a number of years and were very at ease with each other. There was also John’s two Aunts, his “mucky” Auntie played hilariously by Tracey Briggs, she was a sort of Mavis Reilly character from Coronation St. and also his “posh” Auntie played by Gloria Elford Box, she was equally as good and so annoying with her continuous one-upmanship and either asking for or talking about things which John’s family would not be able to afford such as holidays abroad etc. The “posh” Auntie has a daughter, John’s “genius” cousin played by Claire Martin, who had also played his young playmate, she started as a little snobbish swot who always did her very best but then managed to create the change to become a rebellious young woman who was co-habiting with her boyfriend, much to the displeasure of her mother. A brilliant evening, thank you Phoenix Players, here’s to the next one.