“The light-hearted, witty and unapologetically camp production embeds Durham into the play in amusing and creative ways that win over even the strictest of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ purists”
Famed for its iconic characters and now legendary catchphrases, ‘Gavin and Stacey’ has long been heralded as one of noughties’ BBC’s best. A show that many, like myself, were raised with has become so culturally embedded that you’ll know it without knowing you know it. By dumbing-down the references from 2000’s pop culture to Durham titbits, Emily Phillips and Jacob Vellucci create an immersive stage adaptation of a true classic. Establishing a clear narrative thread through weaving multiple episodes, this student-written pseudo-musical is consistently enthusiastic energetic and eager to please.
In honour of the Coronation, King Charles’ presence was made known, with ensuing culture wars that often verged on slapstick. The play did well to physicalise two opposing households. The dual staging of the Welsh and English homes and oscillating between freeze-frames cinematically replicated a flicking from scene to scene, a mirroring that worked well to embed the play into the domestic whilst emphasising the conjunction of two different culture. The set itself was a source of comedy: the Durham iconography, misspellings of Leicester square (purposeful?), the beautifully decorated church window swinging from side to side.
Both Phillips and Vellucci worked on Ooook!’s last sitcom adaptation (‘Miranda’) which came to birth the inspiration of this show. The goofy awkward tone of Miranda was very much carried through, particularly in the fan-favourite character of Joe Rossiter’s Pete. The oafish tension he brought to each line was genuinely hilarious, and, through our pity, he became one of, if not the most, memorable performances. He was bestowed with some the show’s best one-liners, and carried his clownish klutziness through each of his roles. Gwilym Davies’ Gavin was emotive and sympathetic, an injection of rationality into the kooky absurdity of the play. Ellie Davies’ Stacey was incredibly Welsh, an auditory carbon copy of the original, whose excitability and relentless optimism uplifted the show without coming across as sickly sweet.
Bethan Avery’s Dawn was lewdly aggressive and sassily sensual, impressively flitting between characters, such as the adored geriatric jezebel Doris, whose heavily innuendoed character was appropriately emphasised. In contrast, Gwen bubbled with spasms of maternal anxiety, and her squawking “Jehovah’s” was hilarious. With a near-perfect accent and caricatured motherliness, Melissa Redman adorably embodied this quintessential matriarch.
With an incredible live-band this musicalized adaption sometimes read like a sketch show, dancing between scenes, though sometimes the musical transgressions were a bit too abundant (a person can only take so much dad singing). The standout performance however was of course, ‘Vanilla Ice’: truly iconic. Alex Edwards’ Smithy in particular shone in the musical snippets, his laddish personality saturating the stage with macho-flamboyance. Flo Lunnon’s Nessa was simply fantastic. Completely deadpan, she was simultaneously terrifying and laughably whimsical. Smithy seemed more traumatised than enamoured with her, making the romance a little bit unfeasible.
Ben Lycett’s Bryn’s ferociously unrelenting energy kept very true to form, though the implicit made explicit homoerotic overtones may have sometimes gone too far. His epochal rendition of Lizzo is highly entertaining, reminiscent of your elderly relatives butchering Capital FM. Trystan Thurtle’s Jason featured far more heavily here than in the TV show, much to many a fan’s delight, and played off the ‘Fishing Trip’ gag comically uncomfortably, though perhaps the stereotyped nature of his lines was a little too on the nose. Flynn Harris Brannigan’s Welsh/Italian hybrid Dave was relaxed and comfortably perverted with high class comedic timing.
Most loyalists argue ‘Gavin and Stacey’ isn’t actually about Gavin and Stacey, but the true protagonist is Pamelah. Eleanor Sumner’s Pam was truly impressive with her vocal range and subtle hip movements and the winning Essex accent, she hit every single line in a D’Oscar-worthy performance. She was the comical anchor of the play, and her resemblance to the OG Pam was truly uncanny. Olly Stanton’s Mick, the dad we never had, confidently unhip yet appropriately embarrassing, but the parts that I personally enjoyed the most were the background montages. Slow motion gyrating, silently flirting with the audience, dramatic re-enactments of badger genocide: I highly recommend anyone going to concentrate on all mouthed interactions because they are certifiably hilarious.
With admirable and entertaining multi-roleing, and impressive vocal range, the cast of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ are genuinely actually really funny (I promise I’m not just saying that). The light-hearted, witty and unapologetically camp production embeds Durham into the play in amusing and creative ways that win over even the strictest of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ purists. I recommend you come mentally prepared for audience participation and side-splitting good fun.
By Niamh Hoyland
Photo Credits: Ooook!