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A Small Family Business

  • Theatre, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Matthew Cottle -Benedict Hough, Nigel Lindsay - Jack McCracken, Debra Gillett - Poppy McCracken

  2. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    (back row) Nigel Lindsay - Jack McCracken, Debra Gillett - Poppy McCracken, Stephen Beckett – Cliff McCracken, Samuel Taylor – Roy Ruston, (front row) Amy Marston – Harriet Ayres,  Gerard Monaco – Uberto Rivetti, Niky Wardley - Anita McCracken

  3. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Alice Sykes - Samantha McCracken, Rebecca McKinnis – Tina Rushton, Matthew Cottle -Benedict Hough, Debra Gillett - Poppy McCracken

  4. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson
  5. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Niky Wardley - Anita McCracken, Stephen Beckett – Cliff McCracken, Gerard Monaco –Vincenzo Rivetti, Nigel Lindsay - Jack McCracken

  6. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Samuel Taylor – Roy Ruston, Alice Sykes - Samantha McCracken,  Matthew Cottle -Benedict Hough

  7. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Niky Wardley - Anita McCracken, Samuel Taylor – Roy Ruston, Nigel Lindsay - Jack McCracken, Neal Barry – Desmond Ayres, Stephen Beckett – Cliff McCracken

  8. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson
  9. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Stephen Beckett – Cliff McCracken, Nigel Lindsay - Jack McCracken

  10. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Debra Gillett – Poppy McCracken, Samuel Taylor – Roy Ruston, Nigel Lindsay - Jack McCracken

  11. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

    Gawn Grainger - Ken Ayres, Nigel Lindsay - Jack McCracken

  12. © Johan Persson
    © Johan Persson

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Alan Ayckbourn has probably written more plays in his lifetime than most people have seen in theirs (seriously, he’s written 78). But ‘A Small Family Business’ is oft cited as one of his very best, a semi-farcical family drama that serves as a quietly devastating metaphor for the ravages of Thatcherite capitalism, as decent businessman Jack finds his scruples eroded by his spectacularly venal family.

Adam Penford has essentially elected to present ‘A Small Family Business’ as a period piece as it returns to the stage on which it premiered in 1987. That’s a bit of a shame, I can’t help but think. With the greed-is-good attitude that Ayckbourn first gently, then aggressively skewers now the abiding mantra in our society, there’s no reason why ‘ASFB’ should be so distractingly mired in the ’80s, with its colossal shoulder pads and ghoulishly bland interiors. It often feels like period silliness is obfuscating social commentary.

What Penford’s production has going for it is a rock-solid middle-aged cast. Nigel Lindsay is big, charismatic and human as Jack, the honest businessman who finds himself caught up in an exasperating web of intrigue after he takes over Ayres & Graces, the titular family furniture business. Niky Wardley very nearly steals the show as his blithely horrendous sister-in-law Anita. And Matthew Cottle is skin-crawlingly creepy as private investigator Benedict Hough, the uncomfortable physical manifestation of Jack’s moral slippage.

It’s pleasurable, in the sense that lines and performances frequently make you smile, and the action escalates with satisfying precision. And it doesn’t need to feel brutally satirical to have some heft, opening as it did on the eve of Maria Miller’s resignation.
But Penford’s leisurely production is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, and far meeker than it could be, with its gratifyingly savage dénouement rather weakly set up. As it makes its homecoming, ‘A Small Family Business’ feels less a still-potent classic, more affirmation of Ayckbourn’s reputation as the master of thoughful MOR. 


£12-£50. Runs 2hrs 40mins
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