Alan Milburn's last annual report for the Social Mobility Commission found the dice loaded against the child born into a disadvantaged family. It is the language used in the home, diet, the capacity to borrow, clothes, housing, quality of schools and the availability of work, especially outside
We joined American business tycoon (in the original, an aristocrat) Loam hosting the annual event of a meal where, in the spirit of democratic egalitarianism, he and his family plied his company's understrappers with lavish drinks and goodies. This turned into a delightful sequence of audience involvement, as my neighbours and I were offered fizz and chocs. Brian Chenard's excellent Loam, ad-libbing freely, had the air of a door-to-door salesman, a conjuror perhaps or even a
To suggest the Loam establishment, designer Arthur Morris had come up with a simple set of table and chairs, retro phone and upside-down standard lampshade (was the upside-downness a metaphor for the changing social order to come?). Later, after an impressively thundery storm courtesy of Jake Rich, Wolff Lambert and Martha Berkmann, Act II found our jolly castaways on their Crusoesque island, a palm tree illuminated on the floor and twin coconuts to hand.
The Admirable Crichton, here Loam's P.A. rather than Barrie's butler, began her metamorphosis from office drone by acting as a father figure to Loam's son Marcus, laying down some basic rules: 'No work, no dinner!' and then dishing out punishment to daughter Ernesta for the persistent spinning of epigrams – richly deserved since her most notable example turned out to be 'I'm not young enough to know everything'. Finally, Crichton claimed the title of 'The Guv'nor', and the running joke was that it was she, rather than the privileged Loams, who respected the norms of class.
But the theme was explored in a somewhat desultory way, and I thought its discussion tended to be obscured by backchat and bickering, neither particularly funny nor casting much light on character. The interpolation of the hymn Will the Circle be Unbroken?, sung at length by Loam on guitar, was a novelty, but its principal effect was to interrupt the narrative flow, never strong anyway. In Act III we returned from our island, courtesy of a passing ship, to Blighty where the social order was re-asserted along with a revisionist account to the ultra-snob Lady Brocklehurst (Gemma Daubeney, with a nice line in haughtiness) of the insular years.
As Crichton, Liv Moul was precise in speech and dignified in manner, an embryo Jeeves, though lacking a bit of smooth guile, and since we never actually saw her performing any of the practical functions which were the basis of her assumption of authority on the island, I didn't really buy into that topsy-turvydom. The pick of the rest of the cast was Loam's two sons, friskily played by Josh Willetts (in spotted socks) and Joe Woodman (black socks).
This offering from CCC Owlets fell into something of a neutral zone between comedy and social comment. Not a required watch this week, but connoisseurs of oddity will find in it much to please.