★★★★

Despite knowing little about this play, I couldn’t help but wonder if something like Worst Wedding Ever has been done before. Examples of ‘Bridezilla’ make the tabloid newspapers every so often, and the Sky One (previously BBC Television) series ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’ has furnished the viewing public with many case studies in recent years of how not to plan and conduct a wedding. Let’s get this clear from the start: there have, truth be told, been even worse weddings the one in this play. I mean, it didn’t even rain on the day, let alone pour.

Of course, ‘worst’ is a subjective term, at least when it comes to weddings, and what is one couple’s pleasure is another couple’s pain. Given the number of couples I’ve encountered that have stressed and strained over wedding preparations, sometimes in excess of an entire year, one would have thought Scott (Nav Sidhu) and Rachel (Elisabeth Hopper) would be grateful for someone like Rachel’s mother, Liz (Julia Hills), who just wants to take some of the pressure off by lending a helping hand. No wonder, then, that Rachel eventually capitulates, but the consequences are both disastrously hilarious and hilariously disastrous, as evidenced by an explosive ending.

A band played in the foyer of the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch in the half-hour or so before the show started. The script prescribes this, so it’s not just a press night perk. The same band kept cropping up during the show’s scene changes. While it inevitably allowed stagehands and cast to ‘push and pull’ (that is, re-set the stage for the following scene), the choice of songs are known to those with a reasonable knowledge of chart music. For the most part this ruled me out, but even I recognised ‘Just Say Yes’ by Snow Patrol, and, earlier, ‘Marry You’ by Bruno Mars. Some thought had clearly gone into the song selections, and it wasn’t merely a case of sourcing any popular tunes out there broadly relatable to a wedding.

There’s too much religion in this play, firstly from Graeme (Kieran Hill), the local vicar, and his unorthodox ways of proselytising, and then later from Andy (Ben Callon), Rachel’s brother, who discovered Buddhism at some point. Neither spiritual perspective added much, if anything, to the proceedings. Those in the audience who do adhere to a religion may have found their beliefs trivialised, and those who don’t may have found themselves just a tad bored.

Aside from that, it’s surprisingly intriguing. I am not sure whether some of the things that are said between the female characters, particularly between Alison (Elizabeth Cadwallader) and Liz, would really be said by women in the real world. It does come across as what a man would think women would say. Now, had this been a musical, perhaps Liz would be one of those characters that eventually wakes up and smells the coffee, and tells Scott and Rachel simply to go off and be happy. That would be too tidy for a play, especially one with a title such as this, and even when directly confronted with the fact that this is not her wedding but her daughter’s, she still wishes to remain in control. Liz’s own husband, Mel (a likeable Derek Frood), world-weary, is resigned to this course of action.

The play ebbs and flows, though a number of loose ends come together by the end (as one would reasonably expect). The hilarity is not exactly relentless, though I was in stitches when Alison, Rachel’s sister, loses a fight with a portable toilet. By this point in the evening, the show has become a cross between an Alan Ayckbourn play and a Mischief Theatre comedy. This isn’t quite so much the Worst Wedding Ever as The Wedding That Goes Wrong. A sparkling and highly entertaining production.

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