Middle-aged siblings Cory, Monroe and Ike can’t last more than half an hour in the same room together without one of them passing a snide comment. They are pretty much estranged and have been begrudgingly forced back into each other’s lives following the death of their mother, Helen. On top of this, their widowed father Lester is recovering from a stroke – and if things hadn’t been awkward enough for his children, he’s chosen his dead wife’s memorial service to announce his plans to marry his Japanese nurse, Lily.
Perhaps they might be willing to let their concerns about the age gap slide – Lily is 37 years Lester’s junior – if it weren’t for the multimillion pound fortune he has saved up. Well, at least it’s given them a reason to start talking, even if it is only to plot against his pending wedding, and the inevitable loss of their inheritance.
Stroke of Luck is a light and fun play. The dialogue is fairly punchy, and delivered well by a strong cast. Some lines are a little cheesy – as is the title – but this is almost inevitable when it comes to a heart-warming comedy centred on a family with three children who aren’t as close as their parents would like. What makes the traces of cliché okay is that they are delivered with self-awareness that allows them to be bearable, and even a little fresh, which keeps the audience on side.
Tim Pigott-Smith creates quite a character in Lester Riley. He has boundless energy that spreads far beyond the confines of his character’s wheelchair. The relationship between Lester and Helen (Pamela Miles) brings some very touching moments to the play: the warmth between the two is evident in every connection they share, and it’s really lovely to watch.
Bob Bailey’s design makes for some very slick scene changes that help to keep up the pace. A set of six revolving panels lines the back of the stage, with the swivel of just one panel being enough to transport us to another location.
Whilst this is a play primarily for entertainment, Larry Belling has written in a little bit more than just family arguments and slapstick humour. Amongst the greed and bitter resentment there is a sentimental message of forgiveness and looking for the good in people. It’s a simple plot, but the idea of accepting your family for who they are, rather than what you can take from them, certainly prevails.
Stroke of Luck is playing at the Park Theatre until 2 March. For more information and tickets, see the Park Theatre website.