“ Genre: Comedy / Theatrical Release: 1995 / Parental Guidance / Director: Mike Leigh / Actors: Roger Sloman, Anthony O'Donnell, Sheila Kelley, Eric Allan, Stephen Bill ... / DVD released 2000-03-06 at Meridian Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Originally released in 1975
Directed and devised by Mike Leigh
Alison Steadman as Candice Marie
Roger Sloman as Keith
Anthony O'Donnell as Ray
Stephen Bill as "Finger"
Sheila Kelly as "Honky"
Mike Leigh's play "Nuts In May" was first broadcast by the BBC on 13th January 1976 as part of their "Play For Today" series. The play is in typical Mike Leigh format, where he gives the actors the basic outline of his intended plot and lets them largely adlib the script.
Though "Nuts In May" was screened on UK TV before "Abigail's Party" (also a Mike Leigh play, which I reviewed some time ago on DooYoo), I didn't see "Nuts In May" for the first time until about 3 months after I'd seen "Abigail's Party". It wasn't until about halfway through "Nuts In May" that I realised both the characters of Candice Marie and Beverly (in "Abigail's Party") were played by the same actress, Alison Steadman. To me, that is the hallmark of extremely good acting, and accurate portrayal of two very different characters in the two plays, in that it took me so long to realise those very different characters were in fact the same actress.
The basic outline of "Nuts In May" is that husband and wife, Keith and Candice Marie, decide to take a break from their day to day life in a London suburb, and go on a camping holiday in Dorset. After having complained about the noise of his radio, Keith and Candice Marie befriend a young PE teacher called Ray, who pitches his tent a few feet away from them, and it is largely their dubious befriending of him which forms the body of the play as a whole. The scenario which already has tense undercurrents, turns into catastrophe when a young biker couple (Finger and Honky) arrive, and create havoc by making a lot of noise, lighting fires against the campsite rules, making friends with Ray and generally behaving boisterously. Their antics upset Keith quite seriously, and his reaction, plus Candice Marie's attempts to act as mediator, are a true joy to behold - uncomfortable, embarrassing and utterly hilarious!
On the surface, Keith and Candice Marie seem very ill-matched as a couple, and I give a hopefully brief synopsis of each of their characters:
Candice Marie is not unintelligent, but she is of a rather dizzy disposition, sort of like one of these "lost in space" type ex borderline hippies who were around in the mid and late 1970s and didn't quite touch down from orbit. Softly spoken and bespectacled, with long blonde hair and a wide-eyed, innocent facial expression, Candice fancies herself as an artist. Gentle natured to the point of submissiveness, she mostly goes along with what her husband dictates - occasionally voicing a very mild protest, which either largely goes unacknowledged by Keith, or extracts a patronising response from him. Childlike and wispy, Candice Marie will pout and sulk just a little when Keith is firm with her; she always takes a little toy cat to bed with her, which she insists Keith kisses goodnight before they go to sleep. Candice works in a toy shop, and her hobbies are painting, plus playing the guitar and singing songs with Keith which they have written themselves.
Keith appears to be a little older than Candice Marie, and the pair of them are vegans, most probably at Keith's initial instigation. Keith is a man who is orderly and organised to the point of obsessiveness.....his little world needs to be structured tightly, down to the last full stop, and it is that high level of precision in everything he does which holds him just about together as a person. If only one thing is a tiny bit out of place, he becomes anxious and disorientated. Keith works as a meals on wheels organiser, and his outlook on the world presents, albeit in a strange way, as a free-thinking, humanitarian pacifist (well, that's how he perceives himself, and intends to come across). In reality though, he is a strict authoritarian who, when push comes to shove, reveals a side of his personality that even shocks Candice Marie. Keith is unable to let the world be as it is; he has to control, control, control - telling other people how to think, what to feel, and how to behave. He believes everybody should do exactly as he does.
As ill-matched as Candice Marie and Keith seem as a couple, they actually are perfect for one another. Candice Marie for the most part is happy with Keith controlling their lives - sometimes she isn't even aware of how completely under his thumb she is, and Keith is very lucky to have found someone like her, as she rarely confronts him and his dominating, obsessive behaviour. At the end of the line, I doubt if they could (viewing them as real characters for a moment rather than actors playing their parts) survive without one another. Candice Marie needs the tight structure that Keith chains around their lives, otherwise she'd spin off to the far end of the universe, and Keith needs Candice Marie's gentle compliance in order to make him feel worthwhile and important.
"Nuts In May" is typical of Mike Leigh's earlier works, where he concentrates on every day life situations, inventing characters who have bizarre quirks in their personalities - Keith and Candice Marie certainly are quirky!
This play is hilarious in parts, and it is Keith's utter obnoxiousness which provides most of the laughs. Both he and Candice Marie seem to have absolutely no idea of how they are coming across to other people, and they are living inside of their own snug little world, oblivious to anything else.
I'm not giving away the ending by saying this, but for me the most hilarious part is, just as the finishing credits are rolling, Keith climbing over a barbed wire fence while holding a shovel! Of course, to understand what he's actually doing climbing over a fence equipped with a shovel, and to witness the whole debacle of Keith and Candice Marie's camping holiday, you'll have to watch it yourself - I strongly recommend that you do, and treat yourself to a slice of the lives of a quirky couple who live on unpasteurised milk, raw mushrooms and chew every mouthful 20 times!
"Nuts In May" can be purchased from Amazon as follows:
New - £19.59 (not clear if on video or DVD)
Used - £10.99 (not clear if on video or DVD)
Used - £24.99 (this is on DVD)
Collectible - £89.00 (The seller states that for the first 2 minutes of running time, the picture is poor, and he is thus offering to reduce the price to £4.99! What I can't understand is why he doesn't just sell it for £4.99 in the first place, or what he means by "collectible").
Well, that's all folks, and thanks for reading!