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Stuart King

Review: MARTHA, JOSIE AND THE CHINESE ELVIS at Park Theatre

Martha, Josie, and the Chinese Elvis Bolton’s part-time dominatrix Josie, is about to turn 40, but she’s in no mood to celebrate. She’s tired of winter, tired of her daughter’s dreams of emulating Torvill and Dean, and certainly too tired to party — but her No1 client Lionel, is undeterred.

21 years after it won the 1998 Pearson Best Play award, Charlotte Jones’ slightly formulaic but sweetly irreverent and quirky comedy, receives a well-deserved London run at Park Theatre, under the assured direction of Robert Wolstenholme.

Part Personal Services, part Coronation Street, at the core of Josie’s disenchantment with life is everyone’s dependence upon her to be a crutch, but as the play proceeds, a previously unresolved heartbreak involving a second daughter Louise (Jessica Forrest) provides the first half with its farcical Ayckbourn style cliffhanger ending - and one of the biggest laughs of the night - all to the strains of a young Chinese Elvis impersonator’s ludicrously amusing rendition of Always On My Mind (Matt Lim as Timothy).

Scenes takes place in front of a simple set of two modern armchairs and a colourful, Mondrian-esque, multi-panelled wall unit adorned with Christmas decorations and birthday cards, but whilst Kellie Batchelor and Charlie Bence (as Josie and her ‘learning difficulties’ daughter Brenda-Marie respectively) provide the bedrock familial set-up, it’s the awkward flirting between submissive Jewish dry-cleaner Lionel (Andrew P Stephen) and repressed Catholic OCD char lady Martha (Sioned Jones) which generates the liveliest, daftest and most tender moments of the night.

In a piece where fast dialogue exchanges are present throughout, it is essential to get the timing right to ensure that each joke lands punchily, which wasn’t always nailed 100% of the time, but minor gripes aside, this was a great team effort resulting in a fun and rumbustious evening which will delight anyone looking for respite from politics, or who merely wishes to shake-off the winter blues.