Cooking With Elvis is a tricky play to get right, I would imagine.
It’s funny ha-ha because of the scenes of broad comedy writer Lee Hall weaves throughout it, but it’s also funny peculiar due its mix of laughs and genuinely dark moments.
I guess it is this duality that draws a director to the play so you can see why Mark Babych tackled the work. The aim must be to get the balance just right - and he has.
Cooking With Elvis is the first in-house professional production at Derby Theatre and is being billed as a comedy - with strong language and adult themes. That’s spot on.
There are four characters. Brassy but vulnerable Mam, her meek and mild boyfriend Stuart, not as innocent as he first appears, her sparky 14-year-old daughter Jill, and the silent Dad, now in a wheelchair after a serious traffic accident, and now dressed in a variety of Elvis costumes.
This character provides plenty of light relief when, with the others absent, actor Jack Lord jumps up and delivers a series of perfect performances of Elvis songs and some comic monologues as the King himself. In among the relationship-themed laughs, there are dark moments and it’s not a play for the easily shocked but the cast give it their all, in front of a very impressive split-level set. Top marks to Lord, Polly Lister, Laura Elsworthy and Adam Barlow.
Judging by the reaction of the audience, Derby Theatre has a word-of-mouth hit on its hands, which certainly bodes well. The play runs until May 18 and is well worth a visit.