Sing Something Simple*** (Cockpit Theatre, 27 March 2013)

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Staged by the Huddersfield based Dark Horse company, a leading vocational trainer of actors with learning disabilities, this new family comedy with music is written by Vanessa Brooks. The family in question is a single mother with two grown sons; the older, Kit, faces a career crisis and the younger, Spencer, has learning disability and defines himself by his inability to sing. The family is extended by a neighbour, Bonnie, who is infatuated with Kit and dedicated to her mission of teaching Spencer to sing. The play centres on Spencer, who is on stage almost throughout, staying calm and rational as he observes the others tackling the crises in their lives. His life is depicted as much simpler than the others and we see the story unfold through his eyes as he strives to achieve his personal goal of singing in a talent contest at the Royal Albert Hall, judged by Amanda Holden. Spencer is played by Joe Sproulle who (we are told) himself has learning difficulties. He exudes charm and he certainly knows how to work an audience. He also has superb comic timing and generally gives a confident, very professional performance, showing no signs of buckling under the pressure of this huge role. The three non-learning disabled actors, Alwyne Taylor, Heather Dutton and Richard Maxted, provide excellent support. The set is colourful and brightly lit, whilst a back screen shows old photographs and amusing computer-generated images. The title is drawn from that of the hit radio programme of the 50s and 60s, and tunes of the sing-along variety from that era and earlier provide the music for the show. The songs are simple and so too is the script, never challenging the audience even though the production often challenges our preconceptions. However, simplicity is its greatest asset as it serves to remind us how we all tend to make our lives much more complicated than they need to be. This show is warm and joyful, a real pleasure.

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