There aren’t many contemporary stage and screen writers who can claim to be a household name. With the success of Broadchurch and his upcoming takeover of Doctor Who, Chris Chibnall is one of those writers. Based on his experiences, and all of our experiences, of going to weddings, and especially the bad ones, Worst Wedding Ever celebrates the times when things go hopelessly wrong. Watching the performance, the audience clearly related to much of the pre-wedding planning, and Chibnall has created a strong central unit that carries the comedy and drama through. What struck me, at least in terms of heterosexual weddings, is that it’s really all about mothers and daughters.
Young couple Rachel and Scott want a quiet wedding as they are broke. Mother of the bride is having nothing to do with it, and gently induces Rachel into having a dream wedding at the family home. The play builds to the chaotic wedding day, but it is a long, slow build up. Thankfully there are some strong performances that provide many laugh out loud moments. As Liz, mother of the bride, Julia Hills is excellent, her comedy timing spot on, and, as the play progresses, she makes Alison a much-rounded character, someone you really care about. She is matched by the equally excellent Derek Frood as her husband Mel, the easy-going other half of the marriage, but hiding his own secrets and stupidity. The pairing works very well and is the strong spine of the play. As the about to be wed daughter, Elisabeth Hopper does well with a mainly two-dimensional part, (especially in the first half), and Nav Sidhu is very good as the sweet, innocent, groom. Elizabeth Cadwallader almost steals the show as the slightly alcoholic, very bitter sister, Alison, revelling in the role and clearly having a good time.
Having taken the whole of the first act to lay the seeds of the wedding disaster, Chibnall then delays further by introducing new characters at the beginning of Act Two, thereby delaying the inevitable farce. Ultimately these characters do little but provide more levels of angst, and I would question whether they are really necessary, our concern is with the central family unit. Some of the set pieces are a little obvious, but the cast perform the last half hour brilliantly. It’s a very Ayckbourne inspired piece, and some of the shock revelations add quite a layer of poignancy to the proceedings, even if they feel a little forced. This piece isn’t going to change the face of theatre, but it delivers what it is required to do, and is as entertaining as the excellent wedding band that occasionally, unexpectedly, crop up out of James Button’s excellent design.