It Runs In The Family

May 30 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Like a hurricane

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 29 May– Sat 1 June 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

There are breezy comedies – and then there is Edinburgh People’s Theatre’s It Runs In The Family, which soon reaches gale force and stays there.

Ray Cooney’s farce features neurologist Dr David Mortimore’s attempts to keep secret an 18-year-old child he never knew he had, on the day he is due to give an important speech. The play dates from 1987, although it may as well be a hundred years old, such are some of the presumptions on display.

Carol Bryce, Mags Swan, Adrian Smith, Philip Wilson, Stephanie Hammond, Alistair Brown. Pic Terry Railley

Despite being a well crafted piece in many ways, there are also holes in the plot you can drive a coach and horses through, while the central character is so unsympathetic it is difficult to care one way or the other what happens to him.

Despite this, the production is something of a triumph. To keep the audience’s mind off the implausibilities, it is necessary to attack it with genuine pace and split-second timing, which is what we get from director Derek Ward and the cast here. The whole thing is so frantic that at times dialogue gets swallowed up in laughter from a previous joke, but this is a small price to pay for such a freewheeling display.

To get a farce running as smoothly as this is a considerable feat of organisation and rehearsal, and the whole company deserve great credit. Central to it all is Philip Wilson as Dr Mortimore, whose wonderfully pliant physical comedy and displays of exasperated self-protection give the whole thing an unstoppable forward momentum.

Adrian Smith gives his put-upon colleague Dr Bonney a hangdog dignity that is preserved throughout, despite being forced to don drag or perform random acts of musical theatre, while Euan McIntyre’s Dr Connolly has an ebullient charm.

rationality goes out of the window

Any rational examination would suggest that there are far too many characters. However, rationality goes out of the window fairly early on, and the cast are uniformly impressive. Lynn Cameron, as Dr Mortimore’s fastidious wife Rosemary, and Carol Bryce (Jane, the mother of the hitherto unannounced child) both give rounded performances which help to root the whole thing in some sort of reality.

Adrian Smith, Carol Bryce, Joanna Meiklejohn, Mags Swan. Pic Terry Railley

In contrast to this, Joanna Meiklejohn as Lesley – Dr Mortimore and Jane’s daughter – is far more expansive and comedic. This is also true of Helen Hammond, as the tippling hospital board chair Dame Wilhelmina Drake. Stephanie Hammond has the thankless task of portraying Matron, a character rooted in the tiredest of stereotypes, and she does very well in giving the part considerable life.

Similarly, Graham Bell’s Bill transcends a role that is written as ‘comedy confused old person’ and delivers a performance that is full of relish and knowing humour, and possibly the funniest thing in the whole play. Alistair Brown’s police sergeant has a winning combination of bluster and charm.

impressive and sturdy

Kelly Simmonds and Mags Swan, in the much smaller roles of the ward sister and Dr Bonney’s mother, do very well in fleshing out parts that hardly seem necessary for the plot.

Alasdair White’s set is impressive and sturdy, which is important considering the demands put on it by some of that physical comedy. The attention to detail in the whole technical side of the performance is very high; it is easy to think that a play with one set, delivered in something approaching real time, must to be easy to do, but this is far from being the case.

Indeed, having a clock on the wall throughout, like the references supposedly moving the action to Edinburgh, does not quite work, instead just drawing attention to the unreality of it all. In the end, however, this is of little importance, as the sheer frenetic, farcical joy on display wins hands down.

Running time 1 hour 50 minutes including one interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 29 May – Saturday 1 June 2019
Wed-Fri at 7.30 pm; Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets: Book here.
EPT website:

Lynn Cameron, Philip Wilson, Euan McIntyre, Stephanie Hammond (rear view!), Kelly Simmonds, Adrian Smith (back), Mags Swan (front), Joanna Meiklejohn. Pic Terry Railley


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Joyce Duguid says:

    This was a very well written play, it was a riot from start to finish, players were fantastic an made it a great evening, Well done to all.