Review: My Favourite Summer at South Hill Park

fourstars

For the youthful, summer is a measure of happiness and time.

It’s a way to look back and reminisce, remembering a particularly party-filled summer, or a summer of travelling. Summer is also a time to grow and change, and Nick Lane’s fantastic play My Favourite Summer is a delicious cocktail of summer heat, youthful longing and hilarity.

It is 1995, a sweltering hot summer, and Dave (Luke Burton) and Sarah (Sophie Spencer) are recent graduates, sharing a flat in a northern town. Dave has been longing for Sarah for as far back as he can remember, but he finds himself running out of time to tell her how he feels when she announces she has been accepted onto a masters course in New York. Desperate to do something, he gets a job at a scaffolding factory to save up money to take Sarah on holiday, where he will finally reveal his cards. It’s the perfect happy ending. He hopes.

Luke Burton as Dave and Gordon Coe as Melvin
Luke Burton as Dave and Gordon Coe as Melvin

At the factory Dave meets Melvin, played by the wonderful Gordon Coe, who gives us a real working class bloke. He reads The Sun, he tells alarmingly detailed anecdotes about violence, and he brands anything he doesn’t like as a ‘fanny’. Melvin is the antidote to political correctness, and he is laugh-out-loud brilliant.

Coe clearly has a talent for comedy as he proves equally funny as Dave’s Dad, bringing a real Northern humour in his reply when Dave asks him why he’s wearing a coat in the middle of summer, ‘because, well, it’s me coat isn’t it.’

He isn’t the only one to double up, with everyone except Burton playing multiple roles. Rebecca Wire as Mum and Debs brings plenty of wonderful comedic moments, offering fantastically cutting remarks as only Mums do, and presenting a complete contrast in Debs who is loud and gregarious, but who seems to have more depth to her than we ever really get to see.

Rebecca Wire as Mum, Luke Burton as Dave and Gordon Coe as Dad
Rebecca Wire as Mum, Luke Burton as Dave and Gordon Coe as Dad

And that’s the beauty of Nick Lane’s piece, his characters are far from two dimensional. Dave wants to get the girl but as he muddles through his feelings he moves from the ‘go get ’em tiger’ hero, to hopeless romantic, to desperate Dave, a transition which is executed brilliantly by Luke Burton. Sarah meanwhile is the small town girl chasing big dreams, and Spencer plays her as a lively and bubbly northern lass, who is destined to be much more than the female lead in a romantic comedy.

On paper this could be a simple coming of age love story, but there’s a wit and wisdom which makes this feel genuine and rich.

Set to a scorching 90s soundtrack – Scat Man, Take That, Whigfield – which takes those of a certain age right back, there’s also something longingly nostalgic in My Favourite Summer. We all know a Dave, we’ve all been a Dave, and that is what makes this so appealing.

My Favourite Summer is at South Hill Park until Saturday 25th June. To book visit www.southhillpark.org.uk.

I was invited to review the show so my tickets were complimentary but all views are my own.

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