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Bon Voyage/Epstein Theatre

Coffin dodging comedy ticks all the burial boxes

Written by . Published on September 16th 2013.

Bon Voyage/Epstein Theatre

BOOM Boom’s attempt to put the fun back into funeral with Bon Voyage, isn't your average send-off.

It follows in the wake, so to speak, of “If The Shoe Fits” which, incidentally, is looking very likely to be made into a feature film.

Bon Voyage poked fun at the 'at-home' funeral which was traditionally what every
Liverpool front parlour was dedicated to

It’s very much in the “scouse humour” category, with all local actors and the director, Richie Grice, playing the role of the Catholic priest.

Decorum and dignity are left well behind in this irreverent, bawdy funeral party.

All the characters are larger-than-life and don’t mind going OTT at all, particularly so the not-so-grieving Maggie (Lindzi Germain) whose husband, Rocky, has gone to join the great boozer in the sky.

What follows is the pre-cremation get-together of Rocky’s erstwhile mates Bumper (Michael Swift), Dazzler (Shameless actor Warren Donnelly) and Plonk (Tony James), plus Maggie’s daughter Lisa (Jennifer Bea) and Rocky’s remarkably caustic dad Archie (comedian Mickey Finn).

Bonvoyage 2

Set in the family living-room, with a coffin in the corner, festooned with fairy lights and the walls decorated with black balloons and R.I.P. banners, it’s the ultimate in bad taste. Gloriously so, in fact, and that also goes for the banter which revolves around what men usually talk about when plied with alcoholic beverages and what women wish they’d said instead.

The gist was that Rocky wasn’t exactly what you might call the best-behaved bloke in town, neither was he willing to part with his money. Most of the jokes and one-liners seemed to dwell on this, whether this is “typical-Liverpool-humour” or not is another thing. But, hey, Rocky won’t mind – he’s dead anyway.

The forced attempts at send-up and knocking repartee between Bumper, Dazzler and, eventually, Plonk, tended to get a bit tiresome after a while with the put-downs, jibes and concerns about when the buffet was ready.

It was a relief when Father Finn (Grice) arrived on the scene as the not-so-average priest to supposedly officiate the send-off. Choice, particularly when the Pope’s picture is placed by him to make him feel at home. The reversed baseball cap and white cowboy boots are, apparently, the result of a new initiative to encourage youth engagement. Not exactly serious, then? Of course not.

Some rich cameos from a preening man-about-town Dazzler and wino Plonk lightened things up, exchanges peppered with expletives and verbal fracas. That said, Maggie proved that you can’t keep a good woman down even when your husband's in a box in the corner. This was always going to be send-off made in Hell and Maggie made the most of it – even went so far as morphing into a Dusty Springfield ballad. The vol-au-vents had to wait their own turn.

The show-stealer was Mickey Finn’s Archie. From the first moments of feigned grief to his quite exceptionally acerbic shredding of Rocky’s character, including a particularly offensive floral bouquet for the hearse, he actually became quite endearing in an foul-mouthed Albert Steptoe kind of way. Later, when everyone is asked to do a turn, his Long Way to Tipperary across the footlights will live long in the memory.

Mention, too, for the quite ingenious use of the living room juke-box to liven up the scenes when necessary and the remarkable solo dancing talents of, first, Lisa and, then, Maggie in a surreal tribute.

Bon Voyage poked fun at the “at-home” funeral which was traditionally what every Liverpool front parlour was dedicated to.

But this was less sombre and more sombrero. Perhaps not everyone’s choice for a night-out, and it would probably be appreciated more by a Liverpool audience (they loved it) than elsewhere, but it really did make me laugh at the bizarre knock-about of it all.

Is nothing sacred? Apparently not in this household.


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