On the road for new season

MHDE'One for the Road
MHDE'One for the Road

Review: One for the Road at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton.

Kicking off a new Comedy Gold Season for the theatre’s in-house production team is a farce written by Educating Rita author Willy Russell.

This comedy set in 1985 sees a man turning 40 but is distressed about his newly acquired middle class life. Instead, he longs for the days of music festivals and road trips.

It is a show that has lost none of its impact 20 years on because it is all about a man going through a mid-life crisis. And the vast majority of men in the audience could probably have related to it.

The transformation of Con O’Neill Dennis from wise-cracking lad to larger than life raging alcoholic was brilliant. You can feel his increasing desperation with every glass of wine he drinks.

But the four-man piece is perfect and he is ably supported by three fantastic fellow actors. Benidorm’s Michelle Buttery plays the concerned housewife to perfection while Nicola Stephenson’s prim and proper Jane and Matthew Wait’s surburban bore Roger enable Den’s change to be funnier and painful.

It takes a certain level of skill to put comedy and tragedy side by side and Willy Russell’s script is perfectly balanced. For all of the big belly laughs you will get watching this show, it is underpinned by a man’s sheer desperation with the world that he has found himself in. It is a story that will make people think about the direction of their own lives and the hopes and dreams they once had.

But this is a show thatis primarily designed to make you laugh and One for the Road will you have chuckling for a long time after leaving the theatre.

By Steve Mills

One for the Road will be performed at the Royal and Derngate until Saturday, February 23. To book tickets, call the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.