It's the perfect setting for a wedding reception: we're sipping drinks on the patio, as the sun comes down over the immaculately mown county cricket ground. We've all been invited to the 'after do' of the nuptials between Kate and Will… and if you imagine your worst nightmare of a wedding reception going wrong, then you'll have an idea of what to expect from this immersive dinner show. Relatives from hell, catering hiccups and bad dad dancing are just the tip of the iceberg for our unfortunate happy couple.
The actors start to mingle with the audience during those patio drinks, and it's a full-on experience from then right through to the finish. There are continual surprises as the cast move around amongst the audience – most of the time talking to us, and greeting us as old friends of the bride and groom. They even embellish our characters with our own back-stories, creating credible and clever connections between us.
The actors move easily between dual roles, all played convincingly and with impressive credibility. Surrendering to the moment, I truly did believe that the mother and father of the bride (played by Suzanna Hughes and Oliver Harrison) ran a Bed and Breakfast in the country somewhere – or that when Hughes returned as Auntie Marge, she’d had eaten a whole ham from the back of a white van. It all makes sense when you're in the room!
You do need to be prepared for the unexpected, and willing to suspend your disbelief for a while. But that's not a hard thing to do, as the cast is skilled, slick and bold, unafraid to shock and amuse the audience in equal measure. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments throughout the evening; a drunken, brash, wonderful rendition of Don’t Rain On My Parade is performed with enough gusto to give Barbara Streisand a run for her money, while the combination of moves and music in the final dance number is nothing less than genius. Katie Cooper also deserves a mention for her superbly-played Val, but the moment that will stick in my mind’s eye for a very, very long time came from Harrison, and his 'almost' streak across the cricket ground. Absolutely priceless.
The two hours passed by all too quickly. It’s a long show in Fringe terms, but I was aware that I hadn't looked at my watch once, and I loved every minute of it. It was clear to me as well that the actors were loving it too; their interactions with the audience and each other got cheekier and cheekier as time went on. I found myself wishing that every wedding reception could be as amusing as this – for we'd all be queuing up to offer our congratulations to newlyweds on Saturday afternoons.
So if you're looking for an evening that's entertaining, interactive, engaging and – even given the £43 ticket price – good value for money, then this is the one for you. And apart from all of that, the food that accompanied the action was scrumptious too. This was definitely a show to have and to hold, from this day forward. Highly recommended.