On the Piste at Brockley Jack Theatre
Written over 25 years ago by John Godber, On the Piste does not promise much with its Brits abroad on a skiing holiday scenario, and it delivers even less as it fails to properly utilise the only element that could salvage it: humour. Neither realistic enough to prompt reflection nor funny enough to get any real laughter going, the play overlooks the fact that depicting annoying and vacuous characters does not mean that the production should assume these same traits.
Two couples arrive in a French skiing resort where they meet sleazy ski instructor Tony. Chris and Alison have been together for over a decade while Bev and Dave only started dating a few months earlier. Both women would like to take their respective relationships to the next level, but they both prove to be emotionally shallow. The men are stressed out and uncomfortable, especially in the presence of playboy Tony, who is giving the group skiing lessons and unsettling the already shaky bonds between them. Awkwardness reigns in every scene, and unfortunately, it extends to the audience, too.
The story means to show that relationships are complicated, but it chooses simplistic, clichéd examples to demonstrate this. Its formulaic scenarios never really come alive. From the context to the dialogues, it fails to stimulate or surprise on any level. The five characters are walking stereotypes, and while this lack of complexity could have been used to at least create some lighthearted comedy, the play proves to be very feeble in this department as well, mostly relying on a couple of characters’ irritating voices to provoke laughter (and not always succeeding).
A good effort was made with the decor and props, as the characters move around in full skiing gear surrounded by fake snow and wooden benches. The cast does what it can with the material at hand, but there is simply not enough substance, laughter or a worthwhile message to justify the existence of the play, let alone its revival.
On the Piste is at Brockley Jack Theatre from 24th October until 11th November 2017. For further information or to book visit the Brockley Jack Theatre website here.