My Big Gay Italian Wedding
Big, gay and Italian.
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From the moment you enter through the doors of the theatre you quickly realise that this isn’t necessarily going to be a normal theatre visit. A man with a curious “Something about Mary” hairstyle greets you dancing wildly in your face, while girls hand you pizza and nachos… Needless to say my companion took full advantage of this offer and at one point had two girls by his side loading slice after slice on to his plate. There is also a huge karaoke screen in the centre of the stage and girls shrieking to various “wedding-esque” floor fillers. This is all before I reached my seat, and to be honest I quickly realised that this show is all about having a bit of fun, and going with whatever is presented in this 90 minute piece.
Written by Andrew Beckett and running for two years at The St Luke’s theatre, Off-Broadway, this piece offers a light hearted romp about two men wanting to get married. The pair are given their blessing by Anthony’s mother on the condition that the family Pastor marries them and that both Mothers attend the wedding. Naturally as you can imagine neither of these become possible, and an elaborate web of lies is constructed in order for the wedding to go ahead, only to be unravelled by a witch of an ex-boyfriend, but quickly reconciled by a bit of karaoke! OK, so it’s not Pinter but if you try hard to let all your assumptions go about what makes good theatre then this is an enjoyable act.
Ben Vivian Jones as Anthony, and Robert Hannouch are well paired as the cutesy couple ready to get married. Jones plays the role of the “boy in love” very well, his believable portrayal of the character is well paced and compliments the more grounded nature of Hannouch’s performance as his boyfriend. Had the pair been miscast it would have made the whole story very difficult to stick with, and the story develops nicely around them both, particularly in a warm scene between them.
The ensemble worked hard over a mix of suspect Italian American accents but allow the frenzied and manic nature of the performance to be sustained. Lillie Collier as Connie in particular stood out as a great character actress and had many in stitches from her facial expressions alone.
Ceris Hine as Anthony’s sister Maria, sings a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria at the wedding which breaks from the flamboyant farce for a few minutes to showcase her talent, this quickly reverts back to mayhem as she sings a “pop style” version so that the audience can make no assumption that the piece is shying away from being brash.
Andrew Beckett as Maurizio, the wedding planner, is clearly a comic actor, however his presence on stage is so dominating it felt that rather than working with the ensemble he was out for himself. Some moments of his “Jack Mcfarland” characterisation went a little too far at times, leaving the audience quiet and slowing the momentum of the story.
Again, I'm aware this piece isn’t Ayckbourn and in no way does it try to be, but at times the story is completely upstaged by action by other characters. This is a real shame as for example Rebecca Hickey sliding slowly into a drunken splits before slamming face first into the floor had the audience howling with laughter, but I couldn’t tell you anything about the plot at that moment as two characters continued to talk on the opposite side of the stage unnoticed.
My Big Gay Italian Wedding is brash, loud and very much in your face, by committing to that and not shying away from it the audience are in for a fun time. With strong all round performances, with a little tightening up and awareness of taking focus this show could return again and again.
Above The Stag Theatre, Bressenden Street, London until 19 November
Words: Peter Holland