Preston Playhouse Theatre
It is 1919. Frank Gibbon has returned from the trenches and moved his family into a little semi in Clapham. The story follows their fortunes right up to 1939 when war clouds are gathering once again.
George Makin made the perfect Frank, an amiable working class man in the days when the term represented hard-working, honest, religious, aspirational folk with a sense of morality, unlike the benefit-scrounging underclass so prevalent in today’s society.
And this was the nub of the play. Old fashioned values, about to be changed forever by the time the next war was over. And so when Frank’s daughter, Queenie (Louise Ashcroft) ran off with a married man, her mother, Ethel (Marie Gorman), refused to have her name mentioned.
At a time before the role of the teenager was invented, Frank’s son, Reg (Joe Pollard) soon settled into married life, with Phyllis (Anya White), as as did his daughter, Vi (Laura Harrison) who married Reg’s pal, Sam (Tim Butler).
Marie Noblett as Frank’s mother-in-law, was the typical old granny, dressed in long black skirt and a shawl, ensconced in her armchair quietly knitting and exchanging insults with Frank’s sister, Sylvia (Theresa Pollard).
Chris Turner as Frank’s old army buddy next-door, Bob, made a wonderful drunk and Andy Wade looked the part as his sailor son, Billy.
There was laughter and tragedy as the years sped along until, by the time September 1939 approached, the family had flown the nest and Frank and Ethel, deserted by their maid, Edie (Bethan Crook), were moving to pastures new.
The play was like an early version of the post-war radio programme about a Cockney family called Meet the Huggetts, starring Jack Warner and a young Petula Clark.
A time capsule of an era long gone. Rose coloured glasses maybe but a lot of truth behind the lens.Noel Coward tunes on the piano and snatches of the Abdication speech on the old walnut radio added tremendously to the nostalgic atmosphere and the play was skilfully directed by Mary Jones.