As much as we love our families, most of us find they drive us mad at times.
That’s what Calendar Girls playwright Tim Firth has captured in his new musical comedy This Is My Family, which began a month-long run at the Crucible Studio last night.
The show is being directed by Sheffield Theatres artistic director Daniel Evans, who was responsible for the Crucible’s smash hit musical My Fair Lady.
He said: “It’s a brand new musical. I think it is one of the hardest things to create, not just because I’m in the middle of it. T
“here are so many different elements like music and dialogue. We have actors who can do both really well. “There’s no dance in this, it’s a character piece.
“It’s about a recognisable family. The husband and wife have been married for 18 years and they’ve lost touch with why they got together in the first place.
“Their 13-year-old sees this and gets worried about it. She does something in order to reconnect the family.
“She wins a holiday and, rather than taking them to somewhere far-flung and exciting, takes them to the campsite where they first fell in love. Which is disastrous but of course eventually it works out. It’s very funny.”
Daniel described how the writer first approached him to talk him into doing the show: “Tim came to me almost two years ago. We sat on the stage with our grand piano and he played me through everything.
“Within minutes, I knew we had to do it. The songs get into your head, you can’t get rid of them for days.”
He added: “The music, lyrics and dialogue all come from the one brain. Tim writes music but this is the first time he’s written an entire musical himself.
“It’s an unusual piece, not like your average musical, which has a scene and then a song. The music is much more part of the action. It gives real opportunity for the audience to enjoy the characters.
“It’s very, very funny because it is recognisable. A number of times in the rehearsal room, someone has said that’s just exactly like my parents or sister used to be. That just marks out how good the writing is.
“Tim’s really captured it like writers like Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett or Alan Ayckbourn can. They can manage to make the ordinariness of people’s lives extraordinary.
“It’s a family we know and recognise. Tim’s managed to make even the routine of their lives interesting.”
Daniel is also excited about the actors he is working with. ”I have a brilliant cast. I feel lucky and they’re one of the smallest casts, six entire, not like My Fair Lady. It’s lovely to have an intimate group of people. “We have been busy spending time trying to create this family feeling and history about people who know each other incredibly well, love each other deeply, drive each other mad.”
Daniel and the actors have created a timeline. A big red line runs around the rehearsal room walls, showing all the events that happened to the family since 1940, when one of the grandfathers, who is now dead, was born.
He said: “I have done it before. It’s essential with this play. If you think about your family, everyone’s an expert. There’s always things you take for granted about your family, that you take as read. It always has been like that, always will be like that. We have explored their backgrounds, filled in those details.”
The lead role of teenager Nicky is played by an adult actress, Evelyn Hoskins. Daniel said: “It wouldn’t be polite of me to tell you how old Eve is. She is playing 13 and you believe it. She completely gets away with it.
“It’s because of how she looks and her ability to act that age.”
Daniel said that the show is aimed at a family audience but may not be suitable for younger children because there is some swearing.
He added: “I think people should come if they want a hilarious but moving night out. It’s a very, very moving story about a family and what it is to come from one.
“And you hear original, beautiful music sung and acted by a brilliant cast of six in an intimate setting.”
This Is My Family runs at the Crucible Studio until July 20. Box office: 0114 249 6000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk