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No Son Of Mine

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

It’s such an enduring story that it’s been used countless times, and parodied even more. The idealistic young working-class man wanting to leave his gritty Northern life to pursue his artistic dream, despite the scorn of his gruff, no-nonsense father. You may already be thinking of Monty Python or Pete and Dud sketches that covered familiar ground – or possibly just Billy Elliot – but Rufus Jones and Alex Kirk have taken the idea and made it their own, with this often hilarious spoof.

Jones, a member of Perrier-nominated Dutch Elm Conservatoire and the voice of urbane fox Nelson in BBC Three’s Mongrels, is the earnest actor Dennis Hazeley, heading to the Fringe for his challenging theatrical expose of homosexuality in the Taliban.

That the backdrop to this principled endeavour is a mosque that looks like a giant cock and balls probably tells you all you need to know about the level of the comedy, though the entendres are doubled very artfully. Jones is a fine comic actor, able to bring nuance to broad material and make this exaggerated caricature real, vulnerable and distinct from all the other theatrical luvvies you may have seen before.

But his play, Afghan Hounds, is cut short by the arrival in the audience of Dennis’s father Don, the owner of Grimsby’s largest second-hand car dealer and a man who thinks live entertainment starts and ends with the working men’s club. He’s barely tolerating his son’s career choices, even though he funded his drama classes in ‘that London’, and has plenty of unsolicited advice to force on to the show.

This is really a traditional double-act dynamic, which so often relies on the bullying senior partner thwarting the efforts of the put-upon sidekick to do something serious. Kirk plays Don with the intimidating false-bonhomie of a club comic, with pointed badinage aimed at putting his son in his place. A place which he thinks should be the dealership forecourt.

The frequent funnies of the spoof play, its hilarious preamble, and the Knockabout banter between father and son recedes somewhat as the family dysfunction is explored, giving depth to already appealing characters at the expense of gags. Yet there remains some elegantly funny scenes, most notably the re-creation of the first meeting between Don and his wife-to-be – and the childishly stupid ‘magic hand trick’ that’s likely to sweep Edinburgh, if the classily-done No Son Of Mine becomes the cult hit it seems destined to be.

Review date: 6 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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