top of page
  • Writer's pictureMaygan Forbes

Making Exceptions review: A (Dysfunctional) Family Affair

*** 3 STARS

When two siblings host a wake for their late father, tensions come to the surface when their fathers siblings arrive. What would usually be quite a melancholy situation is actually successfully turned into a sitcom with the families dysfunction on full display. The storyline centres around forgetting the name of Aunt Phoebe's (played by Gabriella Smith) new boyfriend's (played by Lee Tunstall) name. Siblings Julia (played by Natasha Robinson) and Michael (played by Taf Nyamaswe) draw bets with their twin cousins (played by Victor Reynolds and Seb Andrews) and try a whole host of wacky ideas to find the actual name of their Aunties boyfriend without asking him directly. As you can imagine, there's a lot going on. And it's funny!

Making Exceptions has a lot of great potential. The chemistry on stage between all actors is undeniably electric and the banter and dialogue seem to flow naturally. Making Exceptions was produced by the Keele University Drama Society, for students who are fairly new to the fringe, this is an incredibly impressive debut. Written by Rufus Dean, they do a fantastic job in creating the dysfunctional family dynamic on stage. If any readers are familiar with the film The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001), Dean captures the fraught, strained relationship of a family mourning whilst also adding in the characters irksome quirks that contributes to the strain. Like an episode straight out of The Office (UK version!) the comedic timing is spot on and the team are truly an inspiration to drama students everywhere. Director Alys Webber also deserves recognition for taking a solid script and bringing out a compelling stage presence for all characters.

Despite its many positives, I do believe the storyline needs to be reworked a bit and further fine tuned. There were some parts of the play that felt slightly out of sync and staggered. And whilst the forgetting of their aunties boyfriend's name was a funny anecdote, I think there needs to be something more in the story, something more juicy and completely unassuming to the audience. Making Exceptions watches like a TV episode, there is even canned laughter sporadically sprinkled in throughout, and this works. However this play has the potential to further capitalise of this idea and create more completely out there moments. Dean has written some very strong characters in the script however the relationship between Aunt Phoebe and Uncle George (played by Daniel Gater) would benefit from more backstory. Often I got confused and forgot that they were siblings but both characters have distinct voices, so seeing more between the two of them would add an interesting spin to the overall plot.

Overall, there is something very relatable and charming in Making Exceptions. The potential is there for the play to really take off and the cast have a well-established base to springboard from. The acting is wonderful and I really hope they continue to take the elements that work and grow stronger. The whole team should be very proud of what they've achieved at the fringe this year because Making Exceptions is a play worth remembering.


Natasha Robinson - Julia (she/her)

Taf Nyamaswe - Michael (he/him)

Gabriella Smith - Phoebe (she/her)

Lee Tunstall - Charlie (he/him)

Daniel Gater - George (he/him)

Victor Reynolds - Ben/Alex (he/him)

Seb Andrews - Kay/Sam (he/him)

Creative Team:

Alys Webber - Director (she/her)

Lee Tunstall - Co-director (also played Charlie)

Rufus Dean - Writer (they/them)

Ergi Haziri - Tech Officer (she/her)

Jack Ollerhead - Tech Officer (he/him)

James Mee - Welfare Officer (he/they)

George Blair - Stage Officer (he/him)

bottom of page