Review: You can’t take it with you

No one seems to take themselves too seriously in this vibrant and energetic, although certainly not entirely flawless, performance.

Cambridge chaos families Freshers lol review

As would be expected of a freshers’ play, the acting is varied in standard, but the cast is on the whole strong and engaging, with actors convincingly adopting the ironic hyperbolic theatre style of 1930’s America. The many platforms and entrances of the set, combined with careful and imaginative directing, allow the actors to make creative use of the space, which means there are always various different side-stories to follow alongside the main speaker, and is apt as a representation of the hectic atmosphere of the family home in the play.

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Image credit: Rob Eager

Many of the actors develop their own idiosyncrasies – Joe Shalom’s contorted facial twitches as the clueless Ed; Hannah Sands’ spasmodic ballerina twirls – which they retain throughout the course of the play even when they aren’t the central focus. The resulting familiarity and comfort for the audience is well-fitting for the light-hearted production. The sheer variety of acting styles, from Rebecca Vaa’s regal depiction of the embarrassed Alice to Jack Needham’s jaunty and highly comical Paul Sycamore, keeps the play moving at a pace which makes it easy to stay hooked.

The costume design is also particularly impressive, if occasionally anachronistic. The use of bright colours and flowing floral outfits, especially for the character Penny, contrasts strikingly with the beautiful velvet dress worn by Rebecca and the dark, straight costumes of the boring Kirby family. This complements climactic scenes such as the Kirby parents’ interruption of the frantic madness of the various family members, combining with the placement on stage to differentiate strikingly between the families.

The play is not without its imperfections: despite the highly effective spatial arrangement of the set, some aspects of its finish such as the bare chains on the stair banisters are simply incomplete. Although the use of lighting and a soundtrack from the period in transitions between scenes is a nice addition, occasionally the use of the music feels a bit abrupt and out of place. But this isn’t the sort of play where little mistakes matter: when at one point towards the end the xylophone sounds began before the character had sat down to play it, the audience laughed together with the cast – a casual feel of chaos and comedy is perfectly harnessed and maintained throughout.

The play sees a brightly coloured set and costumes combine with a very admirable display of acting skill and effort to produce an effect that is thoroughly entertaining – I’d happily watch it again.

Four stars