Review: On the Piste – John Godber at Hull Truck


Published: Wednesday 5th November 2014 by Paul Nickerson - Writer

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John Godber returned to Hull Truck last night with a comedy epic. Fresh from a UK-wide tour ‘On the Piste’ is a hilarious adventure set in the French Alps but with some very English gags.

HEYToday was asked  along to opening night to review the show and enjoy the fun.

On the Piste is about two couples thrown together on a skiing holiday when they unwittingly book lessons with the same instructor, Tony (Tom Rooke). Tony is a wonderfully stereotypical Frenchman who likes cosying-up to his students in typical ‘o la laa’ style.

Away from home the couples have time to contemplate their lives. Things don’t go that well on the piste and holiday pressures start working their way into the cracks of their relationships.

In the stillness of the Alps there’s a realisation that things are not quite working out. Things aren’t helped when they take a sauna with the wickedly suggestive Tony.

It’s funny, insightful and thoughtfully directed.

Alison (Samantha Seager) and Chris (Peter McMillan) have been together for years and it shows. Alison gets into trouble immediately but we quickly learn their relationship isn’t quite what it seems.

Chris now decides the holiday is the perfect time to have a mid-life crisis. Is he still sexy? Can he beat his French nemesis on the slalom? Or is he destined to be the voice of a Ribena Berry forever? Only a hilarious crisis could bring about these questions and adds much to the farce.

Three months into their relationship are second couple Bev (Roxanne Pallett, of Emmerdale fame) and Dave (Matthew Stathers).

It’s in the complexity that Godber unearths insight and sadness to produce great comedy.

Having escaped an Eccles cake-faced Greek man, Bev is determined to settle down with her new love. But from early on we get the sense Dave isn’t that keen , in fact he thinks she’s a bit of nut.

What makes this play good is that through his long spectrum of personalities John Godber brings us the commitment phobe, the cynic, the bored 30 something and the lost love. On all of these he visits a crisis that nurses them back to a slightly improved version of themselves. The writing makes it easy for the audience to relate to these very recognisable characters .

It’s only the whacky Bev who, despite her hapless comedy traumas (broken arm, leg, and neck brace) remains the most surprisingly honest and stable of all. She starts and finishes devoid of any real appreciation. In doing so she paraphrases Godber’s overall message, which is ‘we all want to be loved, but it’s complicated.’

And it’s in the complexity that Godber unearths insight and sadness to produce his comedy.

The play gives the audience a lot. It’s funny, insightful and thoughtfully directed.

The acting is strong across the board and Roxanne Pallet is exceptionally brilliant. The play entertains from start to finish. Each actor commits seriously to the task of physical comedy and together produce sequences (like the perfectly choreographed sauna scene), which would make me go back again.  And that’s not because you see a man’s bottom.

John Godber re-wrote this play from a 1990 script of the same name. He says that he’s refined the characterisation. He was definitely right to do so, because there’s now something for everyone in this comedy epic which holds a mirror up to pretty much all of us. In re-writing it he’s applied the obvious lesson that to be really really funny a play must be exceptionally truthful.

Rating: 4/5 – Highly Recommended

Type of play: Comedy

Duration: 2 hours

Tickets: Runs until 15th November visit the Hull Truck Website or call the box office on 01482 323638.

Published: Wednesday 5th November 2014 by Paul Nickerson - Writer

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