Keep it in the Family Way

The Family Way

The Family Way

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Some plays need no excuse for a revival, especially when restored on the writer’s ‘home’ turf.

Bill Naughton may have been born in Ireland but an upbringing in Bolton gave him an unerring introduction to the comedy cadences of lives lived in close community.

The Family Way is now a little over 50 years old but loses none of its vigour in a production that strongly marks young director Elizabeth Newman confidently taking over the artistic reins at the Octagon.

It’s a play still fondly remembered for the 60s cinema version, starring Hayley and John Mills, but in more recent time it has also become a cultural crossover in its Asian stage adaptation Rafta Rafta, also performed at the Octagon five years ago.

Newman’s colour-blind casting of some of the supporting roles in this new production also bears witness to just how smoothly this play transcends barriers. Its heart-rending and heart-breaking story carries a lot of universal truths, besides bucket loads of laughs.

The comedy may come courtesy of a young couple’s early endeavours at married life, and could seem light years removed from our own more hyper-sexualised times, but it is honestly heartfelt and beautifully crafted.

A hand picked cast, largely inherited from some of the best of the Octagon’s recent productions, includes David Birrell and Barbara Drennan again giving a couple of powerhouse performances, this time as the parents of bashful bridegroom Arthur.

Movement director Lesley Hutchison creates a scene setting wedding party choreography that skilfully spotlights each character and if the in-the-round performance occasionally steals away some of their voices then, on this occasion it is a small price to pay.

Front row theatre goers here actually share an upright chair at the ‘do’ as well as a close-up view of the domestic dramas. It’s as authentic a slice of Northern family life as you’re ever likely to share, and runs until October 3.

David Upton