It Runs in the Family

May 23 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Perfect timing

St Serf’s Church Hall  Thur 22 – Sat 24 May 2014

Skittering along as sharply as a junior doctor on his way to an assignation in the Nurses’ Station, St Serf’s cheeky version of Ray Cooney’s hospital farce It Runs in the Family is a real blast.

Rona Arnott and Alistair Brown. Photo © Gordon Hughes

Rona Arnott and Alistair Brown. Photo © Gordon Hughes

Not that it starts too promisingly, to be honest. Philip Wilson is funny enough as Dr David Mortimer: chief neurologist at top Edinburgh hospital St Andrew’s.

He’s in the Doctors’ Common Room, attempting to practise the career-changing  lecture he is just about to give to an eminent conference. But of course, with just three days to go before Christmas, a whole string of staff have other ideas.

Wilson has a great line in exasperation as the likes of Andrew McLeod’s Dr Connolly, the junior doctor with a penchant for panto, Rona Arnott’s ultra-strict Matron smuggling presents into a ward, and Alistair Brown’s feeble-minded Dr Bonney pile in with their diversions.

Not to mention having to cope with the demands of Alison Carcas as his exasperated but always inquisitive wife, looking for change for the car park, and Dorsay Larnach as Dame Willoughby Drake, who has penchant for Scotch, is in charge of the conference and wants to vet his lecture.

Gentle comedy with not a few laughs in it – at least for those desperate for a giggle. The cast aren’t particularly helped by a succession of missed lines and hitches with the sound, but they plough through, ignoring all and every mishap.

The simple set works well enough with its various doors off and view out to Arthur’s Seat, while the costumes are a good mix of the realistic with the outrageous for Dr Connolly’s forays into the panto dressing up box.

But then Jane Tate, in the form of Vicki Perston, arrives in the Common Room and the whole thing takes off.

Perston makes no attempt to create a comedy character, playing her perfectly straight and, with beautifully polished timing, she drops revelation after revelation into the proceedings.

Yes, she was previously known to the increasingly disconcerted Dr Mortimer as  Nurse Tate. Indeed, David knew her as Jane, when they were on nightshift together.

And her sudden reason for leaving all those years ago? Well, her name is Lesley and, having just turned 18, Jane thought she should know who her real father is. Of course she is downstairs – with every intention of meeting him. And why wouldn’t there be a policeman with her because…

With pinpoint accuracy, director Derek Ward gets his cast to hit a bullseye with every single revelation – each of which comes with its own wild story from Mortimer who insists on carrying on digging, no matter how deep the hole he is in becomes.

All of which, however, is just for starters. If Ray Cooney, best for Run for your Wife, knows how to set a farce spinning, then this is a company who know how to keep it going. And as the complications and permutations keep coming, all the notes sounded in the early, meandering moments come back to bite.

As they do, Lynsey Spence as the petulant Lesley, Jack Paterson as a plodding police sergeant, Colin Stirling-Whyte as a bemused patient and Margaret Anderson as Dr Bonney’s pernickety mother all add their twists to the production.

Yes, there are rather too many dropped lines for comfort. And no, the number 27 bus doesn’t go to Newington – even though this version of the script altered to set it in Edinburgh not London has it do so.

But the important thing is that the laughs are as relentless as the twists in the plot. And the pace does not stop until the very last line has been delivered.

Running time 1 hr 50 mins (including one interval).
St Serf’s Hall, 1a Clark Road, EH5 3BD
Run ends Saturday 24 May 2014
Daily, 7.30pm.
Details on the St Serf’s Players website:

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