Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched at the Park Theatre
If only walls could speak… and they do in Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched, the new tragi-comedy by writing duo Gemma Page and Michael Kirk. Utilising the Park Theatre’s immersive space to moving and often uncomfortably realistic effect, the audience become the four walls surrounding the sparse yet carefully constructed living-room set, privy to both the private confessions and public facades of the “grieving” family.
Kirk uses his memories of experiences in Derby’s dark alleys when he was able to watch “all manner of infidelities”, drawing them together in Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched to create what is – on the surface – a stereotypical Northern family who have all come together for both a funeral and a Christening that are held on the same day. As buffet preparations get underway and drinks start to flow, outward appearances crumble and secrets begin to spill. The second act, opening in dimmed lighting, unfolds dramatically as the now inebriated family burst in on a scene of near-domestic violence. Now too drunk to be careful, this new lighting certainly becomes a prelude for the dark revelations to come.
As Dorothy Needham – matriarch, metaphorical puppeteer and dominating force – Wendi Peters is simply stunning. The strength of the writing comes from its continual oscillation between the slapstick comedy and the devastatingly raw tragedy, and Peters brilliantly espouses these subtleties. She is ably assisted by a strong cast – Wendy Morgan’s Irene treads the line between fragile and assertive with aplomb; their dynamic is beautifully highlighted by Needham’s ironic line: “What’s a fire between sisters?”
Perhaps the only truly sympathetic characters are found in Vicky Binns and Matthew Fraser Holland as Dorothy’s daughter and son-in-law, who ground the play and bring warmth to the bleakness. There are moments of weakness: the pacing is sometimes slightly off, and although Diana Vickers (Susan Walker) and Danielle Flett (Corinne Needham) give powerful performances, this is occasionally let down by some slight overacting – they were far more captivating in their reactions and genuine moments.
This is not a play for the faint-hearted. The opening scene is a highly realistic sex act, strong language features throughout and the racist and misogynistic comments that pepper the script are a bleak reminder of the stifling narrowness of the late 50s. Thought-provoking, downright hilarious and yet also terribly, horrifically sad, this piece of new writing is surely a success.
Hatched n Dispatched is on at Park Theatre from 3rd September until 26th September 2015, for further information or to book visit here.