Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis (Park Theatre)

Kellie Batchelor in Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis
Kellie Batchelor in Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis

Written twenty years ago, Charlotte Jones’s play remains fiercely comic and rather touching, but feels a bit cluttered by dated dialogue and attitudes.

We are in the late 90s, and Josie dispenses a special kind of counselling to gentleman callers to keep the wolf from the door. Her daughter is a little developmentally slow but has moments of sharpness, and her Irish cleaner Martha is coiled as tight as a brand-new spring, afflicted by OCD.

Josie has reached the age of forty, and her client Lionel, a lapsed Jewish dry-cleaner given to wearing petticoats, wants to mark the occasion. He has invited a special guest – one Timothy Wong – who does Elvis impersonations. But another guest gatecrashes the celebration.

Jessica Forrest and Matt Lim in Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis
Jessica Forrest and Matt Lim in Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis

Although the Bolton accent wavered at times, and Martha’s obsession with the number five felt over-egged, there are some good turns here: Andrew P Stephen made Lionel almost dignified and certainly likeable, and Charlie Bence excelled as Brenda-Marie, the surprise twin whose “yanked” birth probably contributed to her learning difficulties.

As “Chinese Elvis”, Matt Lim is more the observer than the observed in what turns out to be the worst gig in his short career, and he plays the role well, including vague approximations of the King at various points in his career.

Although Kellie Batchelor’s Josie and Sioned Jones’s Martha have little in common on the surface, the night is young, and both let their hair and feelings down as fate conspires to make them less “too cold to snow” and a bit more open to life – their scenes are warm and sympathetic.

Charlie Bence and Sioned Jones in Martha, Josie and the Chonese Elvis
Charlie Bence and Sioned Jones in Martha, Josie and the Chonese Elvis

More difficult is the returning prodigal’s heartbreaking teensge awakening story, but Jessica Forrest handles it well. It just sits awkwardly in what is essentially a borderline bawdy comedy.

Overall, Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis is enjoyable and worth catching, and you have a few more chances to do so before it closes on 4 January.

Photo credits Lidia Crisafulli

LouReviews chose to purchase a ticket for this show late in the run!

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