The legend of Pandora’s box is pretty well known to most people and the phrase ‘to open Pandora’s box’ means to perform an action that may seem small or innocent, but that turns out to have severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences. Never was an expression more keenly felt than when members of the Needham family gather together in 1959 in Gemma Page and Michael Kirk’s “Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched” at the Park Theatre.
Due to a double booking at the church, and the widow’s holiday arrangements, the Needham’s are burying Uncle Arthur and Christening the latest edition, Baby Clifford on the same day. In charge of proceedings is the fordable figure of Dorothy (Wendi Peters) who will let nothing get in her way as she prepares the after-party/wake at the home of Arthur’s widow (and her sister) Irene (Wendy Morgan). Assisting her – in the loosest meaning of the word – are Irene’s Daughter, Susan (Diane Vickers), Dorothy’s daughter Madeline (Vicky Binns) along with her, not so bright, husband Oliver (Matthew Fraser Holland) and her daughter-in-law Corinne (Danielle Flett). There is tension in the air, particularly between Dorothy and Corinne, who, despite being welcomed to the family as the wife of favourite child Kenneth (James Wrighton) is from London – not a good start for this steadfast North England family – really isn’t liked by her mother-in-law who never misses an opportunity to use a good old put down on Corinne. Last to arrive is head of household, and keen photographer, Edward who is basically in charge – as long as he does what Dorothy wants. As the preparations continue, reality starts to slap the family in the face. Dorothy is a social climber of the first order – even inviting her more well-to-do friends to the wake/christening party in order to promote her own social standing. Changing from mourning black into stunning red, she becomes a rampaging demon of a matriarch, ensuring that everything is perfect for ‘her’ big night. But, as Dorothy herself observes, all families have their ups and downs and the Needhams are no different for once the lid is taken off their box, the revelations start to tumble out one by one until there is an avalanche of family knowledge spilling out onto Aunt Irene’s living room floor. Is this the end of the family or if not, can their various relationships ever be the same again?
I have to say, “Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched” was an absolutely brilliant play. Coming from Up North I can vouch for the authenticity of the writing which, while being set in 1959, is very reminiscent of conversations I have with my own family – particularly if there is some sort of ‘do’ on. The cast, to a man and woman were just perfect. The obvious thing to do is compare Wendi Peters’ Dorothy to Hyacinth Bucket, but this is doing Wendi a disservice as Hyacinth is a complete amateur when compared to the truly formidable Dorothy, who with just a look can reduce a grown man to a whimpering school-boy. A social climber definitely but with a backbone of cold hard Northern steel running through her. Nothing and nobody will get in her way of ensuring the respectability of her family. A truly fantastic performance from Wendi – who looked stunning in the gorgeous and highly era-appropriate red dress. In fact all of the costumes were perfect so many congratulations to set and costume designer PJ McEvoy who really evoked the era perfectly in every costume and piece of set. Coming back to performances, every member of the cast was outstanding. James Wrighton was amazing as Kenneth – a man who had carried a terrible secret with him since childhood – and Danielle Flett was perfect as his wife Corrine, a woman realising she was trapped married to a man she loved but who would never untie his mother’s apron strings completely. Vicky Binns and Matthew Fraser Holland were really lovely as the youngest couple – Madeline and Oliver – naively trying novel ways to make Dorothy happy by producing a grandchild for her. Matthew in particular was a real pleasure to watch with oliver providing some wonderful comic moments that stopped the play getting too heavy and finally getting the biggest cheer of the night just by uttering two words. All told, this was a cast that came together as a perfectly formed if dysfunctional family from the start and made it so easy to believe in them and the story they were telling.
Co-writer and Director Matthew Kirk, has set “Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched” in the round and that worked really well to create the claustrophobic atmosphere of this tight knit family ruled over with a simpering expression, a disapproving look and a rod of iron by Dorothy. However, this play is one that could easily and, to my mind, very successfully be transferred to a more commercial stage in the West End where I think it would go down a storm. “Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched” is a lovely commentary on the social mores of the late 1950s. The world was on the cusp of a revolution which would sweep many of the old social graces away as the sixties took over. This was especially true for women and I have to say if the writers ever wanted to do a sequel ten years on, I would love to see it as it would be fascinating to see how each of the ladies changed over that period.
Finally, the summary then. “Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched” was a magnificent piece of writing, a real tour-de-force from Wendi Peters and the entire wonderful cast and a superb production all round that I would have no problem recommending to each and every one of you. This really is theatre at its absolute best.
Review by Terry Eastham
Stuart Piper for Cole Kitchenn presents the World Premiere of
Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched
by Gemma Page and Michael Kirk
__ A mucky romp through the morals, memories and music of the 1950s.
You are invited to party… The Needham family have buried Uncle Arthur and christened Baby Clifford in a double booking at the church. As Dorothy-Mavis takes charge of preparations for the after-party, tensions erupt and toxic secrets threaten to destroy her family. But she is not a woman to let family love come between her and social respectability – whatever the cost.
Set in the industrial north of England, this black comedy takes place over one evening in early Autumn, 1959.
Plays until: 26th September 2015
Performances Tuesday to Saturday Evenings 19.45
Thu & Sat Matinees 15.15
Running Time 1 hour 55 mins (including 20 minute interval)
Thursday 3rd September 2015