“Who threw all the pickles down the stairs?”
They say write about what you know but when your childhood memories of 1950s Derby recall nothing so much as 1970s sitcom humour, I’m not sure that Michael Kirk’s Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched isn’t the exception to the rule. Co-written with Gemma Page and directed by Kirk himself, the show is a self-described “mucky romp through the morals, memories and music of the 1950s” but whilst it has an undeniable comic edge that fitfully breaks through to genuine humour, too often it is laboured and criminally inconsistent.
Bouncing from sex farce to serious drama, domestic violence rubbing shoulders with domestic comedy, the play never settles into a groove and crucially, it lacks credibility once matters start to darken and we’re meant to take things more earnestly. Which kind of flies in the face of much of the acting – Wendi Peters is delightfully battle-axed as matriarch Dorothy-Mavis, who won’t let anything her feckless family does get in the way of her social climbing but there’s little sense of depth to the character, an emotional underpinning that would justify this later shift.
Kirk’s gift for dialogue rings with absolute authenticity – one can imagine a notebook filled with the bon mots of all his relatives – but even here, these lines are not skilfully interlaced within the narrative, to really serve his characters, it’s just window-dressing. Highly amusing at times to be sure, but rarely essential to this story. And despite vivid work from the likes of Vicky Binns, Wendy Morgan and Danielle Flett as the other ill-begotten women of this family, the show would be better quickly dispatched or at least be directed by someone else who might have employed more rigour in refining the text.