'Stroke of Luck' or 'Dad's up to his dirty old tricks!'

'Stroke of Luck', Larry Belling
Park Theatre, 4th February 2014 
Written for Time Out 

An ageing New Yorker lies in bed and receives a leg massage from a beautiful Japanese nurse. His children arrive and – shock horror! Hilarity! – think their father is getting a blow job. All this to say that ‘Stroke of Luck’ is a fairly laboured new play about a stroke victim who resolves to marry his young nurse and teach his children a lesson. It’s meant to be a dark and fizzy riff on ‘King Lear’ but it’s much too dull and flat for that.  

On hand to liven things up is Tim Pigott-Smith as the scheming stroke victim, Lester Riley. It’s fun to see Pigott-Smith, best known for playing Lear and Prospero, take on such a light role. He guzzles gin through a straw and cracks jokes through the one side of his mouth that’s still functioning. 

But there’s little else for the actors to play with here. This is Larry Belling’s first play: it’s based on real life and indeed the dialogue is heavy, as if it has been plucked, unfiltered, straight from memory.  The supporting roles are very thin: there is the greedy son (Andrew Langtree), the OCD daughter (Kirsty Malpass) and the restless crook  (Fergal McElherron), but they’re more like mono-characteristic Disney dwarves than fully-formed personalities.  

Bob Bailey’s cumbersome set, which uses a series of rotating frames, slows things down. Director Kate Golledge keeps things tidy but could have brought a bit more flair to bear. There’s also a cloying sentimental streak to it all, including a wedding waltz between Lester and his dead wife which we are forced to endure not once – but twice.