Putting on a divorce-themed show around Valentine’s Day seems a rather risky, and quite frankly perverse, move but this production pulled it off fantastically. There were so many twists and turns in Bad Nick that I was constantly on the edge of my seat, at least when I wasn’t howling with laughter. The plot was completely dissimilar to anything I’ve seen before and its delivery was equally unique. Full of flashbacks and musical numbers, it was absurdly ridiculous but somehow it worked.
As the plot was very elaborate and inter-connected, I won’t reveal too much. It centred around the failed marriage of Nicola and Nicholas Martin, Nicola after having a mid-life crisis leaves Nicolas for the (according to Nicholas) very attractive local butcher, who is famous for prize winning pork loins.
I was very impressed by the acting with the whole cast really suiting their roles, which was especially remarkable as some played multiple characters. The chemistry between the actors on stage was also outstanding, the two main characters Nicholas (Harry Berry) and Nicola (Amelia Holt) were particularly good as the bitter, separated couple. Although all the performances were excellent Cameron Forbes stood out; he played several characters and each of his performances were so incredibly engaging and hilarious I couldn’t pick a favourite.
The set was very simple, consisting of a desk and chair but there were plenty of props including a book of Match Attax which were bizarrely omnipresent as Nicholas, Nicola and their son, George, were all engaged in a highly competitive Match Attax rivalry. The Michael Pilch Studio was an excellent, intimate venue for this production due to the frequent audience addresses and soliloquies, which were very entertaining in themselves but also added an element of dramatic irony which heightened the humour.
I was completely unaware of the musical nature of the play before it started. Consequently, its opening number, a song about mid-life crises featuring most of the cast, was a pleasant surprise. In fact, all the songs were fantastic taking the darkest moments of the play and ridiculing them utterly, so despite the often highly sensitive subjects the entire audience would be in fits of giggles. This idea was the thread that held the play together, it consistently mocked society and perhaps even more interestingly literature. Nicholas is a failed novelist and simultaneously an award-winning one due to his ghost-writer wife, as a result books and literature are very important to the play with several references to other works in the plot, an idea made ridiculous by the bumbling policeman characters obsessed with “intellectual theft”.
The writers, Hughie Shepherd-Cross and Nathan Brown, should be truly triumphant with this production, the nuances of the plot were truly spectacular, and the play was simply bursting with sub-plots. There were many self-referential moments and repeated ideas such as that of the mid-life crisis and divorce, which created an amazing piece of writing. I enjoyed the production so thoroughly that I have little negative to say about it, although if I was to nit-pick, occasionally it was difficult to hear some actors due to a lack of projection and the songs although entertaining weren’t particularly polished. However, I also think that the songs were perhaps improved by their lack of polish as the actors stayed in character perfectly for them, this meant the songs felt necessary rather than add-ons as they sometimes can in plays that aren’t wholly musical.
This is the best production I have seen for a long time, a social satire full of dark humour that will have you, and the rest of the audience, laughing at all sorts of atrocities. I recommend Bad Nick thoroughly, especially if you want a chance to see the funny side of things, an ideal alternative Valentine’s Day entertainment.