Review: Smack Family Robinson

The River reviews a night of glamour and drug-dealing at The Rose Theatre’s production of Smack Family Robinson.

Zoe Birdsall

A big house in posh Petersham, expensive cars, shag-pile carpet, HD television, vats of wine and an Elvis Presley phone, it’s all glamour for the Robinson family who, stuck in the swinging sixties, continue their drug business in the modern day, wanting to “inject a bit of a colour into a black and white world”.

But as father Gav says: “It is not like the old days. There wasn’t any violence back then. It was all peace and loving.”

Dark comedy revival

Keith Allen and Denise Welch have taken an adaptation of Smack Family Robinson, written by Richard Bean, to Kingston. Bean, whose work also includes the multi award-winning One Man, Two Guvnors, originally set the play in Whitby Bay and took it to Newcastle in 2003. 

Directed by Richard Wilson (I don’t believe it!), I really had higher expectations for Smack Family Robinson and was left disappointed and somewhat confused from the lacking plot. It was however, amusing at times, including gags like son Sean thinking Ocado, who deliver Waitrose goods, were to be the new deliverers of the Robinson’s drugs.

Dating Jimi Hendrix

Ex-roadie Gavin has handed the criminal family business over to his slightly psycho son. His wife Cath, who was supposedly dating Jimi Hendrix and accidently killed him by giving him some of Gav’s pure heroin, launders money in her flower shop. Simple son, Robert, is driver to smack and sherbet dealing, ghetto-speaking, Sean, while Cora, their sister, wants to venture away and is doing a catering course.

Things go nasty when Sean hands over the debts to Russian gangsters who make a habit of cutting off people’s feet when they cannot pay back debts. The police soon get involved and things go astray (this is when the storyline really takes a dive).

Shameless meets The Good Life

The production features Harry Melling, who you may recognise as Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter, Kate Lamb and Matthew Wilson. Despite a few stumbles over lines and some awkward pauses (where I expect the audience were supposed to laugh) the five cast members performed well and brought the essence of each character to life.

Think Shameless meets The Good Life, but with less grit (than Shameless) and a more absent storyline. Sure, the gags are funny at times, but there seems to be a bit of confusion over the plot. Is it a murder mystery over who killed Robert’s wife Pammy? Why is Cora arrested? Who knows.

Explicit but average

It is only early days for the play, but it made for an awkward viewing at times, enhanced by the fact that only one-third of the theatre was full so the ambience was definitely lacking.

With strong language and dark comedy, this is not one for kids under 16, with an explicit scene of heroin-taking. An adult humour, and definitely aimed at locals.

With a theme that has such potential, a cast of strong actors and a script filled with jokes, it is just a shame that the storyline, or lack of one, lets this performance down and makes Smack Family Robinson an average evening out.

Smack Family Robinson will run at The Rose Theatre from March 28 to April 20.

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