The Color Purple was the most recent show to run at the Menier Chocolate Factory
. The entire run sold out and the production was easily the most talked about show in London for months, making it a tough act to follow. However, the Menier Chocolate Factory has now once again produced another high quality piece of theatre, Nicky Silver's black comedy The Lyons. Although the two shows couldn't be more different!
The play begins with the Lyons family gathering around Ben's (Nicholas Day) death bed. While this doesn’t sound like a place for comedy, throw in a daughter who is a recovering alcoholic (Charlotte Randle), a homosexual son (Tom Ellis) who creates imaginary relationships with men who don’t exist, and an outspoken wife/mother (Isla Blair) who is simply incapable of biting her tongue, and you have all the necessary ingredients for a dark, yet funny piece of theatre.
Each member of the Lyons family has a secret which is eventually revealed throughout the course of the play. The entire first act is set in Ben’s hospital room and while the pace dips in certain places, the one-liners keep coming and, overall, the act moves swiftly. Following a brutal attack, during the second act it is Curtis’ (Tom Ellis) turn to be the patient as the action returns to the hospital following a peculiar scene set in an empty flat. It is here that Nicky Silver's writing becomes more truthful as some of the scenes between Curtis and his nurse (Katy Secombe) are tremendously heart-warming.
The Menier Chocolate Factory has once again changed the layout of its performance space. The theatre has been put back to a more traditional, end-on layout, making the space feel far more intimate. This is suited to the play, which ran off-Broadway in 2011 before transferring to Broadway last year.
The set is extremely detailed, allowing the audience to feel as if they are peering into the hospital during the first and second act, as well as into the empty flat during the second act. The strong cast give thoroughly believable performances and watching them deal with their problems provides several hours of escapism from your own troubles. In fact, I left feeling a little bit better about my own life!
The Lyons is a very black comedy which also contains some heart. Although at times the play feels a little repetitive, The Lyons is also very real and relatable. For a high quality evening of laughs, tears and maybe even a bit of therapy, book tickets to see this outstanding production.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins
Reviewed on Friday 27th September 2013
The Lyons runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 16th November 2013