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Drug dealing, the Russian mafia and a little light police corruption hardly sound like the stuff of comedy, but ‘Smack Family Robinson’ is a blackly hilarious take on dysfunctional Britain.
Playwright Richard Bean has recently become famous for his 2011 hit ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’; this earlier work about a family of leisure-wear-clad grotesques was first performed ten years ago in Newcastle. Now Bean has updated it so that it takes its pot shots, so to speak, at West Londoners who think there’s nothing like a Ferrero Rocher and a bit of heroin to make a Saturday night go with a bang. The Robinson family runs its drug-dealing trade from Petersham, and the comedy kicks off with news of a death in the family.
Keith Allen plays the ageing hippy patriarch, Gavin Robinson, and Denise Welch, of ‘Corrie’ and ‘Loose Women’ fame, is Catherine, his rock-chick wife of 35 years. She’s the kind of mother who, when her 18-year-old daughter looks unwell, declares ‘You need a bit of vitamin C. I’m going to mix you a vodka and orange.’
She dotingly gives her son Sean – a hilariously psychotic performance by Harry Melling – details of the code for the porn channel. And when her other, learning-disabled son, Robert, announces that his wife has died, she shows her love by trying valiantly to distract her husband from watching penguin sex so they can talk about his bereavement.
Richard Wilson directs this Ortonesque caper with a flare as bold as the leopard-and-tiger-skin flock wallpaper that dominates the backdrop. Battering the audience with a barrage of one-liners, Bean takes violent mutilation, murder, and overdoses, and somehow keeps the laughs going.
In a uniformly strong cast, Allen and Welch make a compellingly repulsive duo. There’s nothing redemptive about the Smack Family Robinson, but they send you out on a Class-A high. Rachel Halliburton