The Upstanding Member

Rating ****
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Old Red Lion Theatre
Performance date 6th December 2013

When I first read the title of this production, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Was it a political piece trying to be clever, or was it a cringe-a-minute innuendo-filled one?

Happily, it is neither of these things and this new farce by Gregory Skulnick has the audience tittering from the word go.

The unnamed (there’s a super-injunction involved) MP is a real pillar of our society… that is until he has a series of unexpected guests on Christmas Eve, none of whom are actually who they seem to be. Will his mistakes be revealed and exposed, or will it be a happy Christmas?

Adultery, burglary and a window cleaners’ union, plus a few (real and not real) lawyers and an evil journalist – for good measure – all feature in this 90-minute farcical production which just makes you smile.

The setting in the living room of the MP’s second home is (as is common with the Old Red Lion Theatre) a bit too real for the audience. I keep having to remind myself not to put my drink on the table in front of me and one audience member accidentally breaks the fourth wall and gets involved (not that this affects the play or the actors).

Director Hamish MacDougall has made good use of the space at the ORL, particularly with the ‘hiding places’, as farce can seem crowded at points with the cast coming and going so frequently.

The actors are all outstanding and there isn’t really a weak one among them; they all gel well together and their movements and voices are all very natural. Tim Dewberry shines as Alistair, reminisce of Jason Statham in both manner and appearance, as he masterminds the events of the evening, leading everyone a merry dance, but ultimately resolving everyone’s grievance.

Only poor Julian (Alexander Pritchett) is left fuming and things don’t really turn out too well for the real Mr Graver (Ed Sheridan) either. The relationship between The Man (Stephen Omer) and Gloria (Kate Craggs) is nicely portrayed and seems very natural, with both actors using fantastic facial expressions throughout.

Considering the short rehearsal time, the cast are already quite slick with timing, something which will only improve during the rest of their run. Adding in a Christmas Eve setting is a really nice touch, as it is discreetly done, but adds emphasis to the piece.

Rival Theatre should be extremely proud of their first full production, which is well-written, funny and clever with a truly impressive cast and creative team.