Review: What’s In A Name? The laugh we all desperately need

What’s In A Name? at The REP, Birmingham

We have probably all had an awkward moment at the dinner table with family members and friends. Just like we are all guilty of putting on the ‘perfect family’ persona, when you have actually been avoiding each other all day.

What’s In A Name?, which is currently receiving its British premier at The REP in Birmingham, brings love, frustration and downright bitterness to the stage and manages to remind the audience that it is normal to all hate each other occasionally.

The 90-minute show stars some of the very best in British comedy, including Sarah Hadland, known for her hysterical role as Stevie in BBC One’s Miranda and Nigel Harman, most notable for his role as Dennis Rickman in EastEnders.

The REPIn the incredibly relatable show, which is set in Peckham, south London, the audience are invited to take a seat in the family home of Peter and his wife Elizabeth, who has invited her brother Vincent and his partner Anna, as well as childhood friend Carl, round for an evening of Moroccan food, wine and sophistication.

The family and friends settle down for their usual banter fuelled evenings and rude exchanges that they have come to expect.

However, the evening takes an unexpected turn when father-to-be Vincent reveals the name that him and partner Anna have chosen for their soon to be born child, which turns the evening into an argument that spirals out of control right in front of the audience’s eyes.

The revelation is not the only one that takes place during the evening, as no one is holding back and egos clash whilst unspoken feelings are exposed for the first time.

The REPWhat’s In A Name? has been adapted by Jeremy Sams from award-winning French film Le Prénom. However, the British take on the show, with our ability to keep our feelings and opinions to ourselves more often than not, makes the adaptation simply hysterical and it is easy to find parts of yourself and your loved ones in the characters on stage as they are all so real; from the concerned mother Elizabeth, to the lazy dad Peter, the brutally honest Anna and the dark horse Carl.

It isn’t just the characters that the audience can so easily relate to either. The set has been designed to an incredible standard and is very warm and welcoming, making the audience feel like they could step inside the lounge and argue alongside them all.

But to say that the show is hilarious would be a huge understatement. The twist and turns of the evening keeps the audience captivated and a need to know just what will go wrong next and who will be the next to express their opinion. However, underneath the humour, are also some deep issues that the play addresses, especially our relationships with others.

However, the show would not be the success it is without the chemistry between the actors on stage; you could be fooled into believing that they are already related and have known each other for years. For many shows, the plot and set are fascinating, but the chemistry just isn’t there. But What’s In A Name? manages to have it all, and more.

In a time of uncertainty, with the latest Trump and Brexit news dominating many of our lives, What’s In A Name? is a few hours away from it all and is a warm, engaging and stomach-achingly funny show. For a show that only has five characters, no extravagant sets and not even an interval, it still has all the traits of a fantastic play and one that is completely unmissable.

What’s In A Name? runs until Saturday 11 February at The REP.

Photo credit: Robert Day