EJ Anderson’s new comedy, set in a near future of riots, strikes and shadow banks, opens calmly enough, with millennial couple Cara and Matt preparing a meal for Matt’s parents.
An interesting family evening lies ahead – except mum literally dumps dad on the doorstep and calls quits on their long marriage. As dad, Robert, awkwardly settles in on a sofa just that bit too small, we never quite get to know what the last straw was out of his many misdemeanours.
As this former punk rocker turned boozy crypto-gambler gets to grips with a new, high-tech world (Cara is a influencer in the world of exercise), the world outside is a constant, dangerous presence where baliffs hover in doorways and unrest is followed on social media reports.
Sebastian, a shady, oily financial advisor and possibly unchartered accountant, is as fake as they come, with the high wattage smile you may expect of an estate agent or quiz host, quickly dispatched
He’s clearly contributing to Robert’s woes, Matt and Cara’s housing crisis, and the world as it is at large, but I found the character slightly out of synch with those around him.
As Matt has refused to pay due rent for their tiny, substandard, flat, he’s in trouble in a world where money is king, and everyone wants their payout. He’s a vet, Cara a lawyer who paints curious abstracts on the side.
Dad’s charm, only surface deep, but undeniable, got him in a curious romantic tangle back in the day, and in trouble with fast cars as he tips from middle age into his sixties. Even Cara admits she’d ‘go there’ if much younger.
Delinquent Dad is a fast-paced comedy with strong performances throughout from Elizabeth Back (Cara), Bradley Crees (Matt), John Gorick (Robert) and Mark Parsons (Sebastian). All display a flair for timing and a believable, if awkward, found familiarity.
Nick Bromley directs the fun against the set by Rob McKinley and Lily Minores (appropriately distressed and accessorised to suggest aspiring professionals in disappointing squalor).
Even the darkest twists and suggestions of peril are addressed with a light touch, enough to keep the mood up and enough to make us wonder about what happens once the lights go up.
This is a fine couple of hours of entertainment. There may be a plot hole or two, but they are easily forgotten with the quality of the show here.
Watch Delinquent Dad at Theatre at the Tabard until 28 Oct with tickets here.
Image credit: Matt Collins