Meet the Churchills

This is a new play by NZ playwright Paul Baker. It’s set at a fictional luncheon on the occasion of Mr Winston Churchill’s 88th birthday. The family – mum Clementine, son Randolph and daughter Sarah – are all overshadowed and cowed by the great man. The final character is Dr Jenkins who is originally applying to be Randolph’s research assistant but is lured into acting as man servant for the day. Yes, another dysfunctional, pill popping family with domestic help show themselves at Circa.
The script is witty. Ray Henwood (Winston) drawls all the best lines and gets the laughs. Helen Moulder is suitably exasperated as Clementine. Carmel McGlone (Sarah) staggers around the stage calling for another drink while ignoring the one right in front of her. Jeff Kingsford-Brown (Randolph) doesn’t have the intensity that I was expecting but he makes up for it with a forced brashness highlighting the ‘jolly joker’ aspect of his character. Byron Coll is fun to watch as Dr Jenkins. He dips in and out of the action interacting with characters in unexpected ways. I’m not so keen on how it wraps up. I can see where Baker wants to go with it but I don’t think he quite manages it. I also didn’t understand the design for this show. It’s set to the corner so the audience sits on two sides of the stage. The wallpaper is covered with pictures of the Churchills and pictures of the war. Somehow the set manages to be both expensive and cheap at the same time. I found it quite distracting.
Overall, it’s a clever if slightly strange play that is an entertaining, easy night out.

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