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I Want To Hold Your Hand
Published on Monday, 23 July 2012

4 starsUnited Reformed Church, Theatre
Run ended
Reviewed by Elijah James

As the title suggests, I Want To Hold Your Hand is a tea-cup drama set in the ‘60s, during the time when bands like The Beatles were at the height of their fame.  Back-terrace family life, above a shop – the family chiropodist – is reflected in an elaborate set, all things chintzy and paisley.  As a follow-up to writer and director Claire Spratt’s previous stage success Blitz Bride, I Want To Hold Your Hand is a twee, nostalgic throwback, enjoyed by a largely parochial audience who remember the era in which it was set.  And yet, it proves to be highly insightful.

The lead character Sylviann (played by Charlotte Meyer) begins with a monologue, introducing us to her situation and family life.  It's a very 'northern' affair, and the accents of the characters are unmistakably from the north-west of England.  Sylviann is looked after – or rather, as a growing teenager, repressed – by her mother Ruby (Gayle Dennis) and grandmother Peggy (Ann Ridley).  It's only when we are introduced to Pamela (Sarah Kearsley) that the delicate balance of family sensibility changes.

Pamela has moved up from London because her father is constantly changing jobs, a fact that arouses suspicion from the older generations.  The spirit of the age, however, is captured by the rapport between Pamela and Sylviann.  Pamela is the rambunctious one, Sylviann more sensible; there is a moment of delightful transgression when Pamela sneaks up the drainpipe of the side of the house to tempt Sylviann to go to a night-club.  Sylviann's mother, Ruby, walks into the bedroom to foil the girls’ plan, only to be persuaded to mime a song by The Shadows with a mannequin leg from the chiropody.

The whole play is a similarly rich story, with moment after moment of playful mischief.  Even the grandmother Peggy gets in on the jokes: "Why be a croupier when there's jobs in Woolworths?" she asks Pamela, an irony clearly appreciated by the audience.  Peggy's role is defined by her witty comments, and her sideline taking in actors and actresses gives the piece an air of meta-theatre.

Claire Spratt, talking to me after, explained that the story was semiautobiographical, and events surrounding what took place were drawn from memory.  Appropriately then, the set is littered with souvenirs and keep-sakes from a sentimental time, which bring about anecdote after anecdote as the story behind each bit of tit-for-tat is revealed.  The play is built around a succession of novelties, such as a coffin-lid for an ironing board, a painted bath, or a commode-chair – all of which form conversation pieces in the narrative structure.

Written as a one-act play, I Want To Hold Your Hand creates a small world of gossip that would accurately portray the life and the times.  It's good clean fun from start to finish, and therein lies part of its appeal.  Most of all, I was intrigued and captivated by the play's authenticity – recreating the writer’s imagination, and confirming our own imaginations that these were special times.

It ends how it begins, with a monologue from Sylviann.  Between these two tellings lies a world of intimacy, touched by candour.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.