Richard Beans latest comedy overshadowed by personal sentiment

Richard Bean’s best work is based invariably on others’ plays, as if he needed a blueprint to work from.

His original plays are less assured and thus it proves with this semi-autobiographical comedy set in his hometown Wetwang, near Hull, where an ageing couple bicker and banter after 70 years of marriage.

Jack (Alun Armstrong) is a 91-year-old ex-policeman given to telling nostalgic copper-bottomed stories about his time on the force, around moaning to his wife Florence (Marion Bailey).

Jokes about old age are nothing new and Bean excavates most of them, starting with a stairlift gag and proceeding to the confusion between “prostate” and “prostrate”.

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The intergenerational gulf is played up when their children visit – son Rob (Christopher Fulford), a successful crime writer, and daughter Tina (Hermione Gulliford) who runs a chain of medical centres – and Bean addresses the usual complaints, including the rise of internet banking and automatic checkouts at supermarkets.

The vestigial plot intended to convey the financial vulnerability of old people is too backgrounded to deliver the coup de grace at the end. But the piece is given the best possible chance of working by co-directors Richard Wilson and Terry Johnson who both know their way around theatrical comedy.

Possibly distracted by the personal inspiration behind the play, Bean leans too heavily on sentiment even when the waspish one-liners are flying about in full sting.

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