Smack Family Robinson – April 2013

Experience: 7/10

By Richard Bean

Directed by Richard Wilson

Venue: Rose Theatre, Kingston

Date: Thursday 11th April 2013

Richard Bean rewrote this play specifically for this venue, relocating the drug-retailing family to Petersham and including lots of local references which some of the audience found particularly amusing; presumably we weren’t the only non-residents attending the performance who didn’t understand all these jokes, although we got the gist most of the time. Aside from the local stuff, there were a lot of very funny lines, though not enough to make this more than a patchy comedy at best, but as the funny stuff was well worth the trip we’re not complaining.

The set showed the living room of the Robinson’s family house. It was nouveau flash, with white leather sofas on three sides, white shag pile rug in the centre with a large glass coffee table on it and a catering size box of Vouvray behind a sliding door in the drinks cabinet on the back wall. Doors on either side led to the kitchen (right) and the hall (left). Centre front was the base of the new large screen HD TV, which they watched occasionally. Amongst the items on the coffee table was a small bulldog ornament which turned out to hold a lighter and presumably cigarettes as well.

With dad Gavin semi-retired, the business had been largely handed over to his son Sean, with the older but less intellectually gifted son Robert providing the muscle. Their mother Catherine still laundered the takings through her florist shop, while the daughter Cora was studying catering and about to take her final exam. With the prospect of a genuine job on the horizon, it looked as if she would be demerging from the family business and going legit in the near future. However the management restructuring of Robinson Ltd. was not yet complete, and the death of one of the senior board members led to a not too surprising conclusion.

Sean had the gangsta talk and attitude, and his discourse on why the moon landing was a waste of time was another funny section. His approach to reducing the business’s debt loading was to sell the debts to the Russian mob, and the consequences led to unwelcome attention from the police. In addition, Robert’s wife Pammy had just died, and it seemed that someone had given her a dose of pure heroin. The finger of suspicion pointed to the family members, but which one? The revelation of the guilty party led to their death, and the family business reorganisation meant that Sean had to be persuaded to expand his business horizons to Ibiza.

The performances were all fine, and I’d put the patchiness down to the writing. Given the popularity of Shameless, the characters seemed less convincing and the story a bit outdated, even though the original was only produced in 2003. But the comedy saved the day, with several hugely funny lines and lots of major chuckles spread throughout the afternoon. The best laugh came at the start of the second half; Sean was settling down to watch some porn on the TV and make himself a shot of heroin – what a tedious process. When his parents came back in Sean had just injected himself, and their shocked reaction was great fun, especially as they weren’t remotely concerned about the drugs or the porn, just the carpet – “Shoes!”

© 2013 Sheila Evans at

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