GT Stage

Review: Smack Family Robinson

Denise Welch and Keith Allen are back on the stage

Smack Family Robinson is Richard Bean's latest offering for the stage, and he's as characteristically outrageous and politically incorrect as ever. It tells the story of The Robinsons: a family who would appear the archetypal middle-class unit, with their well proportioned home, 35-year marriage and 2.4 children. But they are in fact operating south London's most prolific drug den - and it's every bit a family affair.

The parents, Gavin Robinson (Keith Allen) and Cath Robinson (Denise Welch), cling on to their swinging sixties youths. Once upon a time Cath - a tarted up, cockney matriarch not afraid to speak her mind - was the girlfriend of rocker Jimi Hendrix. Gavin was the band's resident drug dealer; which "every band had", he tells us. In an attempt to woo the young Cath, he offers her an injection of heroin for a gift but, awkwardly, she gave that to Jimi, killing him.

Cath and Gavin's resulting romance produces not just three children, but also a family drugs business with a £3 million turnover. Cath uses her local florist as a guise for the mass-scale drug plant. A cover-up not without its flaws, mind: "When did you hear of a florist with a £3 million turnover?"

Welch and Allen play the ageing rocker parents with great accomplishment, and consistently excellent comic timing. Which isn't surprising, as neither have been shy to discussing their own colourful backgrounds in the media. Something we're sure some of the audience could have confirmed, with the cast of Loose Women and Lilly Cooper (Allen) seated by GT.

The real star of this play, however, is Harry Melling. Melling (pictured) plays Sean Robinson: a tattooed, jafaican man cut very much from the same cloth as his drugged-up parents. You may be more familiar with Harry Melling as Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter films. But you'd struggle to see Dudley in Smack Family Robinson, as he gives an enchanting, nuanced, and charismatic portrayal of his, well, smack-head character. Sean Robinson may be a drug dealer blighting south London, but you can't help but be endeared by his simple, child-like approach to it all.

Whilst this play isn't a great tale of modern theatre - it isn't highly emotional, or likely to have you questioning your moral platitudes - it is extremely funny. What it doesn't have in complexity or depth of plot, it more than makes up for in quality and quantity of jokes. It isn't often a play is genuinely funny, it's even rarer that a play is hilarious. Smack Family Robinson is belly laugh funny from start to finish, and a must see.

GT gives it our rarest of ratings: 5/5
Tickets start at just £8 and it runs until 20 April at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, south London. Get your tickets ASAP from the Rose Theatre's website!

Words: Benjamin Butterworth

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