Review: Worst Wedding Ever, by Chris Chibnall, New Wolsey Theatre, until March 11
- Credit: Richard Davenport, The Other Richard
Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life – but it can also be a familia nightmare as brooding resentments bubble to the surface as your nearest and dearest all flock to your side to make sure that this special day will never be forgotten.
This is the background to Chris Chibnall’s latest comedy. As his work on the critically acclaimed TV drama Broadchurch has demonstrated, Chibnall is very good at writing relationships. He creates sympathetic believable characters who you warm to, no matter how badly behaved they are at times or how many foolish decisions they make.
Chibnall understands the dynamics of relationships and families and that is what makes his writing so engaging. Chibnall has been described as the new Alan Acykbourn but I think that does a disservice to both writers. Both have their own unique take on the world. Ayckbourn is more concerned with society and conventions of behaviour whereas Chibnall is more concerned with how people interact with one another.
Certainly this lies at the heart of Worst Wedding Ever which follows Rachel and Scott as they struggle to arrange a simple, quiet, tastefully intimate wedding in the face of Rachel’s mother’s overwhelming desire to stage-manage the biggest, brashest, most inclusive marriage celebrations the family has ever seen.
This is a show where it is best not to know too much about what happens before you arrive. Even the title mis-directs you a little. It’s a brilliantly written, wonderfully acted slice of theatrical heaven that works best if you let the narrative journey unfold as a series of beautifully-timed surprises There were half-a-dozen audible gasps from the audience on opening night.
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The play is a rare treat because it cleverly lures you into the world being created on stage and offers you nuggets of genuine emotion and tragedy among the gales of laughter.
The performances are all pitch perfect and have been honed by three weeks at the Salisbury Playhouse before arriving at the New Wolsey. Elisabeth Hopper and Nav Sidhu may be the focus of the nuptial celebrations as Rachel and Scott but they do well to hold their own against the larger-than-life characters that make up Rachel’s family.
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Elizabeth Cadwallader almost steals the show as Rachel’s drunken sister Alison but it is the nuanced relationship between the parents, played with understated brilliance by Julia Hills and Derek Frood, which makes up the emotional heart of the show.
Worst Wedding Ever delivers a barrage of well-timed laughs but what makes it a great evening at the theatre are the quieter, touching moments, echoes of real lives being played out in front of us. I suspect this will end up being one of my favourite shows of the year.