You don’t go to a Northern Broadsides production for elegant acting and refined wit. The brushstrokes are ... well, broader.
What you do expect, and get in The Grand Gesture, is fun leavened with serious, challenging drama.
After all, the play on which this production is based is called The Suicide (Nikolai Erdman, 1929), a serious theme if ever there was one. Northern Broadsides play up the satirical element of the original and add commentary through music and a wide range of contemporary references.
The Absurdist plot concerns a young man, Simeon Duff, whose life has lost meaning. He determines to commit suicide. This attracts the attention of a range of individuals who might be expected to support Simeon, but prefer to encourage him and exploit his projected death for personal and social causes: religion, the arts, business, sexual politics, Marxism, etc. Eventually, Simeon cannot go through with it and disappoints them all, but is resurrected in the love of his family.
Michael Hugo’s portrayal of Simeon hints at Norman Wisdom, both in character and in his physical presence. Robert Pickavance is gloriously over the top as the ‘intellectual’ Victor Stark and Howard Chadwick as Al Bush, Simeon’s landlord and exploiter-in-chief, becomes increasingly oily as Simeon’s death (and his profit) approaches. However, The Grand Gesture is an ensemble piece that achieves its effect through collaborative effort.
This is a bigger cast than normal. It actually feels bigger than the eleven actors listed in the programme as they double up in roles, as singers and as instrumentalists. I recommend that you go along and judge for yourself how well they pull it all off. It runs until Saturday November 23, daily at 7.30pm. Matiness on Saturday at 2.30pm.
Review by Mike Tilling