We were all waiting for the musical and play adaptation of the Handforth Parish Council Meeting last year and it seems like Going the Distance will be the closest we will get for a while.
March 2020 and the theatres have all gone dark. What happens to all those local theatres that rely on donations and local productions to get them through? Going the Distance takes us through how Matchborough Community Theatre plans to survive the global pandemic. We start with a familiar scene – the first Zoom meeting, synonymous with the ‘I can hear you, can you hear me?’ – and we are introduced to Frank (Matthew Kelly), Maggie (Penny Ryder) and Rae (Sarah Hadland). They discuss finances and ways in which they can continue to make money, despite the pandemic trying to have other ideas. They settle on a summer production and during their first in-face meeting, Rae brings in Vic (Shobna Gulati), who we learn used to be married to Frank, before he came out. This then leads us to the auditions, and we meet Gail (Emma McDonald) and her boss/friend Kem (Merch Husey) and the name to sell tickets, Billie (Nicole Evans), who is definitely the resident diva.
Ryder was truly fabulous as Maggie, and she definitely took us on a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute she was making us laugh and the next she had us in tears, it was almost like a masterclass in acting. Husey was also spot on, he made us spend the whole performance wondering if he would ever tell Gail his true feelings. Who doesn’t love a will they/won’t they romance story?!
Henry Filloux-Bennett and Yasmeen Khan’s new comedy definitely has some laugh-out-loud moments, and will definitely be a source of escapism, from the ever-looming doom of yet another lockdown. The opening will remind you of one of the best moments to come out of 2020 and you will find yourself genuinely caring for the characters and hoping their re-imagined Wizard of Oz manages to see the light of day. It is guaranteed to at least put a smile on your face on a gloomy October day!
Going the Distance is available to buy tickets and stream from www.goingthedistanceplay.com between 4th and 17th October.
Reviewed: Jenn McKean
Reviewed: 2nd October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★