THE PEOPLE ARE FRIENDLY
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court, London SW1
Opened 12 June, 2002

**** Sharp, funny family drama disguises keen social insight

Michael Wynne writes comedy-drama that seems quite conventional on the surface but actually, discreetly, looks a lot deeper.

After several years in London, Michelle and her southern boyfriend Robert move back to her home of Birkenhead literally to a big house up the hill from the council estate where her family live, and throw a party for the folks. At first the family seem to be the embodiment of the old joke, "What do you call a Scouser in a suit? 'The accused'", but gradually, sensitively Wynne reveals the various tensions and complexities.

Easy satire on modern culture blends with the dark side of urban impoverishment, as teenager Kirsty finances her ambition to be famous on any account by dealing drugs. Middle-class affectation is lampooned colliding with unvarnished working-class tastes: Michelle offers round stuffed vine leaves, but her sister says they look like "six shits on a plate." And the shift from manufacturing to service industry is shown ripping the heart of both the community and the family, as the truth about Michelle's return comes out.

It's a play that deals with a lot of "big issues", but is also smart enough to know that the best way to do so is indirectly, under cover of laughs and human sensitivity.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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