On the Piste was written by playwright John Godber in 1990 but comes across as a farce from the 1970’s. It follows the skiing holiday of two couples in Chamonix. Put it this way, it’s not the best week of their lives.
The first couple is Alison (Ellie Jackson) and Chris (Andrew Agnew, familiar maybe as PC Plum from C Beebies’ Balamory) from East Midlands; they have been together a while, but early on there are hints that Chris is no great believer in monogamy.
The second couple is Mancunian Bev (Ceris Hine) and Dave (James Murfitt) , with Northern accents as thick-sounding as they can muster; Bev in particular with a nasal shriek which goes right through you. At first it is funny but after a short time her words are so long drawn-out and annoying, you start to question the meaning of life. They have not been together for very long, and soon it becomes clear that they will barely make it through the week together.
The skiing instructor is the stereotypical hunky, handsome Lothario (Tony, played by Robbie Smith). His accent is dodgy but his character is familiar from every skiing holiday you have been on – amiable, with a few Euro gestures and catchphrases which you feel like you have heard before – and he adds humour to the (almost naked) sauna scene which ends Act One. You don’t need to stretch your imagination to guess what might happen here, and it all follows true to expectations.
Out of the five characters, the most empathy I felt was for Dave, who finally expresses what the whole auditorium feels about the way Bev says the word ‘babe’! It is a great relief to hear some truth uttered out loud!
It is entirely watchable and the cast all do a good job of their roles (although Ceris Hine really does go too far with THAT voice) but it is not quite funny enough, and not quite observational enough, and you don’t care enough about the characters.
The point is, I loved Duty Free as a kid and watched the Carry On films from age dot, so this made me feel at home and in places I really did laugh out loud. However it also made me realise that there is probably a good reason why I have not broken the seal of my Carry On box set, and also that if I did watch Duty Free again now, it probably would feel a bit old-fashioned, a teency bit sexist and just not that funny anymore.
hattydaze rating: **/*****
With thanks to the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre for the press tickets. On the Piste plays at the Jack Studio until 11th November 2017. More information at the website.