Video: Harry Melling talks about getting into character for Smack Family Robinson
Review: Gibraltar @ArcolaTheatre

Review: Denise Welch and Keith Allen star in Smack Family Robinson but Harry Melling shines

Keith_Allen_and_Denise_Welch_-_Smack_Family_Robinson_-_credit_Jason_KelvinThe Robinson's have a nice house and a comfortable life in suburban Kingston, the fruit of years growing the family's drug dealing business.

Dad Gavin (Keith Allen) has retired leaving son Sean (Harry Melling) to run things. Mum Cath (Denise Welch) has a little florist shop which is used to launder the drugs money. Eldest son Robert (Matthew Wilson) helps out as Sean's driver and muscle.

It is a family that is both functional and dis-functional; a family where loyalty is of paramount importance but in which they follow their own sort of twisted moral code and house rules. For example, such rules dictate that cooking up a hit of heroin is only wrong if you do it in the living room rather than in the kitchen with the fan going.

It is a family that revels in its criminal past and present while perversely believing it upholds some sort criminal code of conduct, a sort of honesty amongst drug dealers. The one exception being daughter Cora (Kate Lamb) who just wants to pass her catering qualifications and get a regular job.

Richard Bean's 2003 play - which has be relocated to Kingston especially for its run at the Rose Theatre - is like a BBC sit com with c-words and serious crime and it kind of works if you don't think about it too much. There is a perverse charm to the Robinson family, a voyeuristic intrigue in seeing they operates behind closed doors, which helps because you do need to root for them in some small way.

There are some great lines and plenty of laugh out loud moments. However, the ease with which violence is discussed and meted out rankles a little alongside the more innocent, obvious humour.

Smack Family Robinson has its feet in two camps. There are some serious issues lurking underneath the surface namely the decriminalisation of drug use but it is wrapped up in something that is far too throw away to give serious consideration. It is trying to be a black comedy but only gets halfway there. That isn't to say that it isn't enjoyable, as I said, the key is not to think about it too much.

This was the first preview and aside from the odd dialogue stumble seems pretty solid already. Allen and Welch have a great rapport but equally it feels like they are in familiar territory and therefore not really stretched.

For me it was the sons who stood out. Melling's Sean has a drug-fuelled swagger and a cockiness that coupled with some of the best lines makes him the dominate force. The living room set almost felt empty when he wasn't there.

Wilson's Robert is the antithesis of Sean. He likes to stand in the back ground and does what he is told to do with a simple, unquestioning mind but there is an art to looking gormless and dim and I couldn't help watching him in scenes when there was a lot else going on just to see how well he wasn't reacting.

Audience members local to Kingston will find an extra layer of humour in the geographical references that will be lost or only guessed at by everyone else. Smack Family Robinson isn't Bean's best work but can be enjoyed as frothy, if slightly dark, fun.

Smack Family Robinson runs at the Rose Theatre, Kingston until April 20 and is worth an £8 pit cushion ticket. You can read Poly's review here.

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Video: Harry Melling talks about getting into character

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