Thursday 27th June - Matinee
The prospect of a new British musical always fills me with excitement and for this reason I travelled to Sheffield Crucible to see the premiere of This Is My Family; a new musical with book, music and lyrics by Tim Firth and impeccably directed by Daniel Evans.
The show is narrated by Nicky (Evelyn Hoskins) who has won the holiday of her choice in a competition asking her to describe her family. The only problem is she has embellished the tale and the reality doesn’t quite match her description.
Firth captures the reality of family life perfectly and has created an instantly recognisable set of characters, ensuring every audience member can identify with at least one of them. Evelyn Hoskins is an excellent narrator; with credits including Spring Awakening I assume she is considerably older than her character but she is entirely believable as thirteen year old Nicky (even in a matinee attended by a large school group!). Her innocence and enthusiasm is so immediately endearing that it is impossible not to root for her. The rest of the family is made up of her mother Yvonne (Clare Burt); her father Steve (Bill Champion); 17 year old brother, Matt (Terence Keeley); Aunt Sian (Rachel Lumberg) and grandmother May (the always wonderful Sian Phillips) who is struggling with the early signs of Alzheimer’s. They are vividly brought to life by an incredibly strong cast who have great on stage chemistry and interact completely naturally.
Sometimes the simplest stories are the best and Firths book is full of humour and heart. The scenes flow seamlessly into the songs, almost as extensions of the dialogue. Written in a conversational style, the lyrics are witty and intricate, expertly delivered by the cast as if they are streams of thought. There is no so called 'big' number to bring the metaphorical curtain down but the show is packed with tuneful melodies and recurring motifs. Admittedly from one visit it is only the title song that truly sticks in your mind but each song adds further layers of personality and depth to the characters.
The set, designed by Richard Kent, is a clever cross section of a typical family home, with a central staircase leading to various rooms that set the scene perfectly. Performed in the intimate Crucible Studio the audience sits on three sides with the action taking place in the centre and as I was on my own I filled the last seat on the floor level, finding myself effectively on the edge of the stage. The seating is unreserved but it is clear that there are no bad seats and in such a small space it is easier to become engrossed in the story.
‘This Is My Family’ is a likeable, affectionate and feel good musical that will have you leaving with a smile and probably reflecting on memories you have of your own family. After all, the holidays where things go wrong often end up being those that linger in the memory the longest! It is so important to support new British musicals and this charming new show surely has a bright future.
‘This Is My Family’ runs at Sheffield Crucible Studio until 20th July. For further information and to book tickets go here