Review: It Runs in the Family Leaves Audience in Stiches

For a play about doctors in a hospital, it should come as no surprise that by the end of It Runs in the Family, the audience was left in stitches. Better Than We? Wey Productions had their opening show of the popular British farce with the talented Debra Boucaud-Mason at the directorial helm on Friday 28th April, 2023 at the Napraima Bowl, San Fernando. Attending that first night, I found that this production was an uproarious showcase of comedy chops for the production house with nonstop hospital hijinks that had the audience laughing throughout. 

Nonstop hospital hijinks | Photo credit: Jeanelle Henry

Originally written by a celebrated veteran of British farce, Ray Cooney, this production of It Runs in the Family offered a delightfully localised version of his script. It focuses on a successful, middle-aged doctor named Dr. Collymore (Kearn Samuel) who is “happily” married to Mrs. Collymore (Shevonne Metivier). At the start, all is well and good as Collymore is preparing to deliver a prestigious keynote speech at an important conference filled with bigwigs, which, if successful, will catapult his career to new heights – all with his boss (Patti-Anne Ali) bearing down on him. However, things are quickly thrown into disarray when he is thrust into the kind of situation that might be better moderated by Maury or Jerry Springer. Ms. Tate (Paula Hamilton-Smith), an ex-nurse with whom Collymore had an illicit affair 19 years prior, shows up in the doctor’s common room to deliver the troublesome news to the good doctor that, surprise, he has an eighteen-year-old son, Lesie (Nicholas Subero). Each moment goes hilariously haywire from there as Collymore comes up with increasingly ridiculous solutions to his compounding problems involving doctors, nurses, policemen, and patients alike along the way.

Dr. Collymore (Kearn Samuel) and Mrs. Collymore (Shevonne Metivier) | Photo credit: Jeanelle Henry

The success of a good farce hinges, more than most other kinds of plays, on the comedic sense and abilities of the actors. If the timing is off when delivering a punchline, if one’s movements are too stiff or too self-conscious, if the actors show anything less than full commitment to the ridiculousness of their roles, the entire play falls flat on its face as the joke is the focus of the farce. The entire cast delivers in spades in this regard- with some especially standout performances. The first few minutes were off to a somewhat subdued start, but as the situation quickly spiralled out of control, the actors brought a kinetic, vibrant energy to the stage that kept the jokes flowing smoothly. 

As the central character in the play, Kearn Samuel played the cocky Dr. Collymore with skill and confidence. Samuel kept the pace flowing with his rapid fire responses, never missing beats, remembering an impressive volume of witty lines to keep the plot on track and drive the story forward with only a few minor hiccups. In this regard he reminded me of the kind of wordy, witty, energetic lead performances the late Raymond Choo Kong would give in similar productions. 

Playing the loyal but goofy co-worker and friend to Samuel’s Collymore, Arnold Goindhan stole the show with a firecracker performance as Dr. Koon Koon. At first, I was tepid on his performance, finding his delivery of lines too unnecessarily shouty and hoping that wasn’t going to be a one-note kind of deal. Boy, did Goindhan change my mind. His over-the-top, wide-eyed energy was infectious and played well with the way the character was written. From well-timed one-liners, to singing, dancing, cross-dressing, Goindhan barrelled through the play with nothing less than full commitment to the bit and reaped the rewards in non stop laughter. 

Arnold Goindhan as Dr. Koon Koon | Photo credit: Jeanelle Henry

The rest of the cast performed their parts with fervour and kept pace with these electric leads with splendid performances all around. Paula Hamilton-Smith was playfully feminine as the doting mother/former illicit lover, Jane Tate, giving merit to statements like “that is woman!” from the male characters. Kevon S. Brooks was also hilarious in his turn as  “Mr. Leslie” the sometimes-wheelchair-bound, very outatiming Alzheimer’s patient who somehow gets tangled up in Collymore’s convoluted mess… or maybe that’s not his name… but who knows at this point? Wendell Etienne’s performance as the police sergeant was also noteworthy as he provided a good counterpoint to the craziness as a sort of straight man amidst the chaotic characters in the hospital. Side characters like Rachel Bascombe’s no-nonsense Matron, Gervais Aleong’s Easter play-obsessed surgeon, and Nicholas Subero’s childish-yet-troublesome Leslie, all had their moments to shine and delivered on the funny. 

Apart from the acting, the other elements of the play were fairly typical of the genre. Boucaud-Mason’s efficiently light touch let the actors’ performances and delivery of the clever dialogue shine. There were several incredibly ludicrous and well-orchestrated scenes involving a good half-dozen characters at a time that kept the stage alive and dynamic; in some scenes there were characters dangling out of windows, locked in bathrooms, or even playing dead on a gurney to side-splitting effect. This was facilitated by a well-designed set that never felt too crowded and really made the wider unseen hospital setting believable. 

As a farce, the script was expectedly light. There is not much to explore here thematically, but it delivers on what it promises. The localisation of the dialogue, characters and situations was done well enough. There was only one element I felt failed to connect with the audience and add to the play and that was the character of Collymore’s boss, Dr. Rampersad played by Patti-Anne Ali. Ali. Like her castmates, Ali played the character with admirable commitment, but there was a definite disconnect with how the presence of this character was intended to land and the effect she actually had on the audience. The purpose of the character was to add tension by hounding Collymore about his speech, threatening his career, and making sure the audience is acutely aware of the impending deadline. A quirk of personality she was given was that her hair became increasingly dishevelled throughout the play. As she was mostly disconnected from the shenanigans of the other characters, and she only had one line about it – “I’m having a bad hair day!” – the joke didn’t land quite as well. By the end, it felt like the humour of the character may have been lost in translation as the play made its way across the pond and Dr. Rampersad the character may have been more effective as an off-stage presence for most of the play who shows up closer to the end. 

Dr. Collymore (Kearn Samuel) and Dr. Rampersad (Patti-Anne Ali) | Photo credit: Jeanelle Henry

With a stacked cast of ridiculously funny actors, and a script that has seen success since the ‘90s, Better Than We? Wey more than delivered on the entertainment and the laughs on their opening night. I am sure that, like myself, most in attendance spent the following weekend randomly snickering as they recalled the indomitable Dr Koon Koon’s uproarious outbursts of song, dance, and killer karate moves. lol.

Better Than We Wey’s production of It Runs in the Family continues 13th – 14th May at the The CLR James Auditorium at The Cipriani Labour College.


Hey, Shazim Khan here! I’m a student of literature at UWI, which happened as a result of a long time fascination with words in all their various forms and mediums. I also have a deep affinity for the arts on the whole, especially music of all genres – I’m an amateur guitarist.

I’ve recently been introduced to the fascinating world of theatre. The spellbinding magic that can be so expertly conjured on stage has captivated me and inspired a desire to learn and experience as much as possible of this timeless and magnificent craft.

More from Shazim Khan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s