Review: Highlight


ADC Lateshow, 11pm, until Sat 3rd Dec


It is a truth universally acknowledged that meeting the parents for the first time is a horrendous experience. And in Tamara Micner's new comedy Highlight the jokes sometimes seemed painfully familiar. The inappropriate stories, the awkward silences, the family silverware you haven't seen for years. It was all here, making for one delightfully cringeworthy evening.

The clash of cultures between the two families provided some of the funniest moments in the play. As the Zionist mother-in-law from hell, Frida (Jennie Dunne) stole the show, receiving most of the laughs from the audience. Dunne managed to combine cliche with occasional glimpses at the emotional depths of a mother coming to terms with her son growing up. Impressively, the actors rose to the challenge of the variety of accents, which ranged from Polish to Canadian. The parents' mispronunciations of English are finely observed by Micner and, in the hands of Dunne, hilarious (anyone for triple secs?).

The simple set was effective, too, with a fence separating the homes and the décor as kitsch as it comes. The layout meant that all the awkward entrances and exits were played out before our eyes, and the movement of the children as they waivered at the door was a masterstroke of direction from Pete Skidmore.

Much of Micner's play involves cross-dialogue, which the actors handled very well, particularly in the scene where Ed (Nick Harris) and Isabel (Charlotte Quinney) speak to each other's mums about love, life and marriage. The danger that this scene would fall into oversentimental territory was prevented by the outbursts of Isabel's mother, played with great gusto by Gemma Turnbull, as she supervises an unseen gardener who is pruning the family's trees. Dunne's Frida meanwhile brandished a menacing pair of shears which were, quite honestly, bloody terrifying. Think Cherry Orchard meets Desperate Housewives.

Credit must go to Robbie Aird as the Chiliean dad Davi. It is clear that Davi's role in the play is to make the life of his daughter's date as excruciating as possible, and this he does very successfully. Appearing from behind a newspaper at the start of the play to inform Ed that he is hard to get on with, Davi later mimes to a Mozart opera just at the moment when Ed decides to drop by. You can't help but feel for Ed, who seems doomed by the parental powers that be, and Harris plays the role sympathetically, encouraging us to share every grimace and every agonising moment of family tension.

I can forgive the inclusion of Sainsbury's mint chocolates in the set because this production was really very good, and the perfect end to term — like that trusty glass of mulled wine. Not to be missed.

John Swarbrooke

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