Picking up a few months after Loitering with Intention, Three’s a Crowd, Four’s a Mother (or M*th£r) joins Ben and William as their civil partnership is put under strain now that the honeymoon period is over. With Ben’s ex, Martin staying, and William’s mother turning up on the doorstep, the crowded house is set for confrontation.
Kurt Nikko and Neil Ashton, reprising their roles as Ben and William are able to pick up their characters and flesh them out here. Nikko’s Ben is given depth with his questionable relationship with an ex who tags along like a lapdog. Meanwhile, Ashton’s excellent comic timing is shown when dealing with his mother.
Indeed, Jenny Hayes plays William’s mother Lavina to perfection. A distilled version of Ab Fab’s Patsy, and with a never ending supply of booze, she gloriously swaggers her way through Ben and William’s life. Lavina’s character ends up as a lynchpin with the other characters orbiting around her as she dispenses acerbic remarks and sage advice, Hayes’ experience paying dividends as she effortlessly switches from one attitude to another. I do hope she is back for a return match in the sequel. Rounding off the foursome is David Bresnahan as Martin, Ben’s old flame. Expanded upon from mentions in Loitering with Intention, Bresnahan manages to stay just the right side of endearing with his naive portrayal of the forgotten love.
If Loitering with Intention was in 60’s sitcom terrority – here we are firmly in 90’s terrority. Think 2 Point 4 Children, or My Family for the anarchic style we see here. Director Helen Parry handles the expansion of cast well whilst writers Alasdair Jarvie and Neil Dymond-Green prove they can step up to the plate with a funny and warm script that hits the laughs in the right places. Lines are much more sparky and punchy and the gags are fast and furious.
The observational comedy of its predecessor is gone in favour of a more structured script that attempts to seriously explore the effect of newlyweds on friends and family. The only niggle is that it begins to explore the limbo that civil partnerships, and the fact it could mean less than a legal ‘marriage’ leave couples in but this never really lives up to its dramatic potential.
Clever set design allows for the foursome to split off into couples for spotlight scenes of their own across the divided kitchen and bedroom set. Draped boards double for walls neatly mimicking the fact that the walls in the flat are as ‘thin as paper’. Set decoration with specially taken photos of the couple also adds flavour. Additionally, special note goes to the effort with the comprehensive and professional programme that New Attitude were giving out at performances.
Three’s a Crowd, Four’s a Mother is a much warmer and more laugh-out-loud piece than its predecessor, look out especially for a hilarious cameo by Siri and haters of Jedward will also be pleased that here they have a lot to answer for. With some genuine hysterical moments and warmth from the cast, it is a much more successful continuation of Ben and William’s story. Let’s hope the third instalment builds on this even more.
The Fiction Stroker gives Three’s a Crowd, Four’s a Mother three strokes out of five:
You can find out what’s next for New Attitude Theatre Company on their website. Ben and William will return in the third in the sequence, Toying with Adoption next year.