Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

An unmistakable hit: Till the Stars Come Down, at the Dorfman Theatre, reviewed

Plus: a beautifully judged surprise at the Arcola

Raucous: Lucy Black (Hazel) and Derek Riddell (John) in Till the Stars Come Down at the National Theatre. Credit: Manuel Harlan

Till the Stars Come Down is a raucous, high-energy melodrama set at a wedding in Hull. The writer, Beth Steel, focuses on three female characters and virtually ignores the men in her story which is just as well because her male characters all talk and act like planks. Her women are full of courage, craziness and fun.

This is a hit. West End, easily Broadway, maybe. Pack your bags, girls

We meet Sylvia, the anxious bride, who fears that her family won’t accept her Polish spouse, Marek. Her sister, Hazel, is facing a romantic crisis because her husband has stopped paying her attention in bed. And sexy Maggie harbours a secret that’s bound to spill out during the drunken festivities. The three shrieking women exchange ribald gags. Maggie remembers an attractive man who ‘looked at me like I was a potato in a famine’. Hazel tries not to laugh too hard in case she wets herself and spoils her finery.

The jabbering women are joined by Aunty Carol, who wears a purple hat the size of a bouncy castle and calls for bucks fizz all round. The decibel levels soar as she treats the girls to a selection of her bons mots. Cheddar, she says, ‘smells like Satan’s armpit’. After the ceremony, the sit-down meal is less frenetic and the script turns into a public information broadcast. We’re given preachy messages about how to think and behave. Our hearts must always be open to migrants such as Marek (even though he informs Sylvia’s family that English workers are lazier than Poles). A male character warns us against eating pork because, he says, pigs are clairvoyant and can foresee their doom when they arrive at the abattoir. A drunken uncle laments the closure of Yorkshire’s collieries in the 1980s but he fails to mention that the miners expected sky-high wages for extracting coal that was available cheaper overseas.

Little mysteries are set forth, elaborated on and resolved with consummate skill

The plot gets more interesting when an illicit embrace is witnessed by a notorious gossip.

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