The raucous, fast-paced, dark comedy from Lee Hall – the writer of the hugely successful Billy Elliot and The Pitmen Painters – was greeted by a full house and feted with a standing ovation this evening.
The set was ingenious and achieved the maximum impact with a minimum of on-stage effort; the direction was slick and the cast of four performed with great energy and cohesion.
The narrator was daughter Jill, played by Laura Elsworthy, and she was used to great effect to frame the whole production.
She barely left the stage and, for me, was the outstanding star of the night as she skipped from gleefully introducing each scene to delivering some of the most harrowing moments of the production.
Cooking with Elvis tells the story of Dad – an Elvis impersonator – cut down in his hip-swivelling prime by a car accident and left in a permanent vegetative state.
Dad (Jack Lord) is cared for, if you can call it that, by his alcoholic and anorexic wife, Mam (Polly Lister) and the food-obsessed 14-year-old Jill.
The only other character in the drama is Stuart, (Adam Barlow) a bakery worker and would-be lothario who has his cake and eats it by managing sexual trysts with everyone else on the stage. He certainly is at the centre of all the action and at one point is smothered in marinade in the kitchen. You need to go see it to find out more.
Oh, and there is Stanley the tortoise – if you go you must watch out for him.
The show includes plenty of music from The King in the form of surreal fantasy scenes in which Dad’s hallucinatory Elvis dreams burst out on to the stage. The audience loved him and Lord was a very convincing Elvis impersonator. I’m still debating whether it could really have been him singing it was so good.
This is not a show you would want to go to in the company of your maiden aunt as the sexual content, although not x-rated, is pretty near the knuckle and you would definitely blush.
At some points the audience is left aghast as the show tackles some very difficult subjects but it is essentially, in a thought-provoking, entertaining way, exploring a family going through a crisis and managing to survive and come out the other side.
It is Derby Theatre’s first professionally produced play under the recently appointed artistic directorship of Sarah Brigham and there is no doubting she has gone for it Big Time with Cooking With Elvis and she deserves the accolades I am sure she will receive.
The show runs until May 18. For ticket details go to http://www.derbytheatre.co.uk.