Gym and Tonic Review

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Stephanie-Hackett-and-Peter-Mcmillan-in-Gym-and-tonic-play-at-the-new-vic
Stephanie Hackett as Shirley and Peter McMillan as Don. Image by Ant Robling, Robling Photography.

Gym and Tonic by John Godber is a play we can all relate to.

From the opening scene there is line after line of humour cleverly crafted with everyday human experiences and relationships.

At Scardale Hall Health Farm instead of relaxing massages and calming surroundings most of the guests find themselves becoming more stressed than before they arrived.

Don played by the convincing Peter McMillan and Shirley (Stephanie Hackett) arrive with the hope of reigniting their stale marriage but instead find themselves bickering at the slightest things – we have all been there!

Following an exercise class Don finds himself stiff with pain, then he does not enjoy his back massage before finding himself in an argument with his wife about the prices of the wine on offer at the health farm.

Don’s horror when asked to strip down for his first massage, and then later in the play, when he returned more confident, and stripped off his clothes to discover he was only having a face massage was simply hilarious.

Shirley on the other hand was relishing every moment, taking part in everything that she could and befriending other guests along the way.

Ken, played by Robert Angell, is full of energy and charisma and encourages Shirley to make the most of the health farm while Gertrude Tate (Jaqueline Naylor) often offers here view on the world in her own eccentric way.

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Robert Angell as Ken and Jaqueline Naylor as Gertrude Tate. Image by Ant Robling, Robling Photography.

Stephanie also plays masseuse Cloe – and is superb in doing so – just as with Shirley. As Cloe – keeping a straight face when Don is in her treatment room is a task in itself and she perfects it brilliantly.

Charlie Johnston is not a main member of the cast but his role doesn’t go unnoticed as a member of the health farm’s staff, hosting a yoga class and appearing several times throughout.

The cost of the whole break troubles Don and a serious element towards the end of the play reveals more.

Gym & Tonic will make you laugh, it will make you think, and it will definitely make you remember the time when you found yourself in situations you may not have wanted to be in.

Gym and Tonic is at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday 9 November. Read more here.