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Canvas - Minerva Theatre, Chichester
THERE are no secrets among campers. Not after the first few days, anyway.
Canvas walls are not made to protect privacy. All will out, and does in Hugh Whitemore’s new comedy premiering at Chichester.
The basic theme is well tried. Three couples and their children are thrown together on holiday, here in the confines of a rural campsite in Wales.
Although all three are attempting to get away from it all, inevitably they are quickly drawn into their own close-knit community where boundaries break down and emotions flood to the surface along with the mud and the contents of the compost toilet.
Although well trod comedy fodder – Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May setting the bar – gags have been brought up to date, the family fall-outs are for the Facebook era.
This, then, isn’t camping as purists would recognise it.
The tents are large and spacious, the fittings in the style of a luxury chalet, the neighbours well-heeled if not well of mind.
“If anyone calls it ‘glamping’, though, I will lamp them,”
bemoans site owner Bronwyn ( Lisa Palfrey) as she confesses all is not as advertised at Hedge Farm, where the chickens have gone AWOL along with her husband.
For Justine and Alex the break means more than an escape to the country, but an escape from bitter memories back home.
Alan (Dean Lennox Kelly of Shameless fame) and Justine (Lucy Montgomery of TV’s Tittybangbang) need space.
They don’t get it, of course, thanks in most part to tented neighbours Bridget (Sarah Hadland of Miranda) and Rory (Elliot Levey), Alistair (Oliver Milburn) and Amanda (Hattie Ladbury).
Each of the combatants makes their mark, but it is inevitably Hadland who steals the scenes in the role of over-protective, over-organised teacher from hell who attempts to run the campsite agenda as she would a class of Year 7s.
Tried and tested the setting may be, the opening night audience still found much to roar with laughter about.
Jonathan Fensom’s set design brings its own authenticity to the atmosphere of wet doom as the protagonists trudge real mud through the long grass.
Canvas runs until June 16.
But be warned: in a tent everyone can hear you scream.