One thing that can certainly be said for Smack Family Robinson is that it is not for the faint hearted! Set entirely within the family’s lounge, the play centres upon the Robinsons, a drug dealing, money laundering family full of community spirit. F-bombs and mild threats fly easily from the mouths of the parents who are spread luxuriously across white leather sofas, beer and wine in hand, casually informing their children of the adult channels’ password.
Gavin, played by Keith Allen (Treasure Island, Robin Hood), is an aging hippie longing for the Sixties when he was both roadie and drug dealer to rock ‘n’ roll legends and his relinquished the responsibilities of the family business to sons Robert (Matthew Wilson) and Sean (Harry Melling, Harry Potter). Despite the seemingly more pressing matters of Robert’s wife’s death and mum Catherine’s (Denise Welch) money laundering flower shop, the family seem more preoccupied by how their daughter, straight-laced college student Cora (Kate Lamb), is going to celebrate her 18th Birthday. This gentle mocking of the daughter who wants to be rid of the family’s criminal activities is only paused when the revelation that the Russian mafia who took on Sean’s debt collection, have gruesomely killed one of their friends over a small debt, mildly shocks the family and begins their descent into chaos, albeit slowly.
Previously written nearly ten years ago and since revised, Smack Family Robinson is an incredibly black comedy from the writer who gave us the jolly West End and Broadway hit, One Man, Two Guvnors. Much of the amusement comes from the shock of seeing a family react to such unbelievable and appalling situations in such a nonchalant fashion. Yet sometimes it is too much so. All the performances hold up throughout the lighter first half, with particular mention to Melling’s rather vile Sean and Allen’s genuinely family loving father Gavin, but as the play gets darker and the jokes more sinister, the heightened climatic moments fail to hit the mark and in doing so move the performances into the realm of charactures and slapstick.
Not a production without its flaws but this is still a very funny play with some great performances from the small versatile cast.
Guest blogger is Claire Furner, MuggleNet News Team