This is My Family – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Clare Burt as Yvonne in This Is My Family at the Crucible Studio Theatre, Sheffield

Clare Burt in This Is My Family at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield. Picture: Keith Pattison

This is My Family continues at the Lyceum Theatre until 18 October before touring until 15 November.

Some may think the Lyceum Theatre has taken a bit of a risk reopening after a nine-week refurbishment with a new British musical about a modern family.

Bear in mind though the words and music of This is My Family are by Tim Firth whose impressive body of work for the theatre includes the legendary Calendar Girls and the Madness musical Our House.

His latest work also had an award-winning run last year in the Crucible Studio in Sheffield. Indeed director Daniel Evans, the artistic director at Sheffield Theatres, says the response was so overwhelmingly positive that they were keen to bring it back to a wider audience.

So they’ve moved the piece to the Lyceum which now has 1,100 reupholstered seats, 66 solar panels on the roof and 11 and a half miles of electrical and audio cabling.

Since 2013 there has also been some fine tuning to the musical, although Firth says he likes to call it a comedy play which is told through music. Whatever label you choose, it certainly has a deep vein of wit running right through the middle of the production.

The humorous conversation slips easily between speech and song and back again. It’s this and the domestic subject matter it tackles that bears similarities with the work of Victoria Wood. That’s certainly no bad thing. Singing about desperately searching for scented candles in shops on New Year’s Eve and comparing sex to parking a car in the song ‘Sex is a Safari’ are definite hits for the audience.

There’s also a real poignancy at play. Mum Yvonne, played by Clare Burt, sings about the things men don’t say as she carries out her daily chores clasping a laundry basket to her chest.

Marjorie Yates, the only new member of the cast, plays the forgetful mother-in-law. When she starts to sing: “There’s a small light burning”, but struggles to remember the last lines of the song, her fragile warbling leaves a collective lump in the audience members’ throats.

Terence Keeley is 17-year-old Matt, a goth wannabe wrapped in black, who despite lounging on set for much of Act I is a real presence as he pines for his girlfriend. His duet with Bill Champion, who portrays his dad, involves the translation of teenage mumbling and is very funny.

Evelyn Hoskins, an actor in her twenties, reprises the lead role of 13-year-old Nicky and is utterly convincing as an effervescent teenager living life at full speed, determined to take her family on holiday. At times it leaves you exhausted, but she’s a pocket size star in the making. Her energy is matched by Rachel Lumberg who puts on a lusty performance as Aunty Sian.

Firth says Sheffield Theatres has taken a huge risk in remounting this production. It’s a gamble that has really paid off.

Katie Galbraith

www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

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