94 posts categorized "Comedy" Feed

Review: Silly, fun and poignant Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road, Trafalgar Studios 2

I finished my review of Keith Stevenson's Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd when it was on in January, at the White Bear, by saying I hoped it got a transfer so more people could see it. Hey presto, here it is at Trafalgar Studios 2 for another run, so is it as good as I remember? Well the answer is a big fat yes.

It's set in a grubby motel room - "trip advisor classes it as other" - where Mountain Dew and vodka drinking JD (Keith Stevenson) lives. He does odd jobs for the lascivious, string-vest wearing, red-neck motel owner Flip (Michael Wade) and acts as consoler to fiery, crack head artist Marlene (Melanie Gray) when her wasted poet boyfriend Tommy (Alex Ferns - the only cast change) is being unfaithful. 

Into this walks Mitch (Robert Moloney) a hyperhidrosis sufferer who's lost his job in the local spork factory, been dumped by his girlfriend and had his car burned out by local reform school girls. He's answered JD's ad for a room to rent - or at least that is what he thinks is on offer.

The scene is set for a madcap 70 minutes but this is an exceptional piece not just for the very funny one liners but the clever way Stevenson surprises and wrong foots. His characters are wonderfully drawn so as to surprise, scare and amuse over the course of line of dialogue. When you've finished laughing you are left with warm fuzzy glow and a wish to spend more time with them, perhaps. 

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd manages to be silly and poignant but essentially is a hugely entertaining play about being nice to each other. At the end JD says: "There shouldn't be a name for the right way to treat people, it should be normal." And he is right. 

It's getting five stars from me, again, and you can see it at the Trafalgar Studios 2* until June 3.

* The Trafalgar Studios 2 has been rearranged so that the seating is raked so that is faces the performance space on one side, not wrapped around three sides as it normally is (the same set up as the White Bear if you saw the play there).


Review: Lenny Henry in the irresistible Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Donmar Warehouse

Lennyhenryw500h500Before I had even taken my seat at the Donmar, I'd spoken to two actors and shaken Lenny Henry's hand. It's all part of the Donmar's transformation for the Bruce Norris adaptation of Brecht's play - The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. The stalls - stage and seating - have been removed and replaced to create a space decked out as a late night jazz cafe complete with wooden tables and chairs to fit the new setting of prohibition era Chicago.

The cast mingle with the audience as they arrive in the building and then in the theatre chatting as if you are cafe customers. The reason behind some of the conversations only becomes apparent as the play properly starts - PolyG and I were asked by Lenny Henry's Arturo Ui if we'd stand up when he requested during the play, naturally we agreed. If you are sat at the front - even in the circle - you may be roped in.

In Norris' adaptation our Brechtian villain is a gangster who wants respect as well as power and will be as ruthless as he needs to be to get there. However this is a far less intimidating Arturo than I have seen in other adaptations. The fact that his protection racket targets grocers and in particular the cauliflower importers and sellers gives you a taste of the tone.

It is an Arturo Ui which is frothy and fun, with unsubtle references to Donald Trump and blatant parallels with the likes of Richard III - Norris also manages to weave in excerpts from several other Shakespeare plays including 'To be or not to be'. There are also tantalising snatches of popular songs sung live in a lounge jazz style, it becomes a game of name that tune - try and guess the song from a verse or two of familiar lyrics sung in an unfamiliar way. Nat King Cole's Nature Boy gets its second stage outing in as many years too (it was the song playing at the start of Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet).

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Review: David Tennant is the smutty Don Juan In Soho, Wyndhams Theatre

379395_770_previewI've seen David Tennant play Shakespeare's leads Hamlet, Richard II and Benedick and he's brilliant but I've had a hankering to see him in something more contemporary on stage. Step forward Patrick Marber's Don Juan In Soho, a modern tale of debauched hedonism based loosely on Moliere's Don Juan.

If it was a deliberate move of David Tennant's part to choose a stage project that contrasted with his classical roles then he has succeeded in part at least but I'll come onto that.

Don Juan isn't a play that is going to worry the grey matter, instead is an entertaining romp through 48 hours in the life of the titular character who is the estranged son of a lord. He lives for pleasure and in particular pleasure of the flesh with his trusted, if often reluctant, chauffeur/butler Stan (Adrian Scarborough) to clear up after him. There is nothing too sordid or morally reprehensible that Don Juan won't consider; he doesn't love, he lusts turning on the charm and saying whatever is necessary to get what he wants.

Stan tells us right from the start that he isn't a very nice person and Don Juan's behaviour quickly proves the point and yet when he is doing his worst deeds it doesn't feel shocking, or really that bad. And I'm not sure if this is because David Tennant has too much charm or if that is how the character is drawn. I've heard of some people not returning at the interval but I didn't find anything in the play remotely shocking and I have to confess I was very slightly disappointed by that.

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REVIEW: The power of three high school misfits in Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2

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Patsy Ferran, Douglas Booth and Tony Revolori. Photo Simon Annand

Solomon (Tony Revolori) is an aspiring journalist and wants an article published, Diwata (Patsy Ferran) is an aspiring actress and wants a part in the school play and Howie (Douglas Booth) wants to flirt on gay chat sites. All outsiders with their own agendas, they are united by a sex scandal at their school and a musical version of The Crucible, with a time-travelling Abraham Lincoln, might just be the answer to getting what they want.

Stephen Karam's play's is laced with wit and black humour with a serious sprinkling of silly fun but there is far more to it below the laughs.  It's a story about teenagers on the cusp of becoming adults struggling to realise their ambitions in a world where social media is just starting to take off. They want to talk about the stuff that matters such as freedom of expression and gay rights and have sex education classes without the genitals being referred to as the 'bathing suit area'.  They are young people on a voyage of social and sexual discovery, often learning the hard way the consequences of their actions.

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REVIEW The hilarious Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport for The Other Richard
Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport

Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna's comedy Dirty Great Love Story is a modern poem to romance but Romeo and Juliet this isn't. This is a love story that starts at a hen and stag party, a story of drunken sex, morning after awkwardness, shoes that hurt and rescuing escaped boobs. It's a love story where climbing a vine to a balcony takes a lot longer and a lot more effort than the movies would have you believe.

Ayesha Antoine plays Katie (and CC) who is out on a hen night with her mates. She's recently been dumped by her boyfriend (he who must not be named) and her friend CC is determined to get her a shag. Felix Scott plays Richard (Westie and Matt) and is on a stag do with his mates and his friend Westie is equally keen to pair Richard off with someone. Their eyes meet across a pulsating, sweaty, alcohol drenched dance floor but the course of true love never did run smooth.

Written in verse we are taken on a two year journey of mishaps and relationship mayhem. Those around Katie and Richard seem to be entering a new phase of their lives while our two mismatched, one-night stand, lovers seemed destined never to get it on again.

Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott switch swiftly between characters without missing a beat of the poetry. They deliciously deliver the misinterpretations and missteps of Katie and Richard and the antics and opinions of their friends.

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REVIEW Five star fringe - Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd, White Bear Theatre #friedmeatUK

Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler
Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler

It's a bitterly cold, dark January night in the maelstrom of Trump's impending inauguration and May's hard Brexit speech and a piece of 'vital', 'essential' or 'urgent' theatre is not really what you want - or need. Thank heaven's then for Keith Stevenson's Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd which, in its 65 funny minutes of misfit, odd, dark, craziness has a warmth that leaves you feeling that not quite everything is wrong with the world.

Set in rural West Virginia, Mitch (Robert Moloney) has lost his job, been kicked out by his girlfriend and has a condition which makes him sweat profusely. JD (Keith Stevenson) lives in a motel, helps out with odd jobs and advertises for a room mate. JD and the room aren't quite what Mitch expects when he turns up to have a look but then neither is the slightly scary un-PC motel owner Flip (Michael Wade) or the warring couple next door - the philandering Tommy (Dan Hildebrand) and crystal meth addict Marlene (Melanie Gray).

But these are all characters that defy initial impressions. On the one hand JD has never heard of the state of Maine or that lobsters come from the sea but on the other he knows Latin. They are the sort of people whom you'd expect to see on the Jeremy Kyle show and yet they occasionally use language you'd hear on Radio 4. Just as Marlene's 'most beautiful' painting is a woman with a snake head the juxtaposition isn't quite right, it is surreal, slightly odd, perhaps a little sinister.

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Review: The Dresser, Duke of York's and why it feels past its best

The-DresserLove Ken Stott and it was that and a very good ticket offer on Today Tix that got me to a matinee to see The Dresser. And here is where I pause because despite Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith acting their socks off the play just felt lacklustre and a bit past it.

Ronald Harwood's play was first staged in 1980 is set during the Second World War in a theatre where actor/manager 'Sir' (Stott) is having trouble keeping himself together and his long-suffering dresser Norman (Shearsmith) is trying to get him ready to go on stage for an evening performance of King Lear.

I had several problems with the play. Sir is either having some sort of nervous breakdown or has the early signs of dementia and that isn't actually that funny - maybe Ken Stott's weepy, dazed acting is too good. He appears extremely fragile at times and attempts to get him ready for the performance feel almost cruel.

However, in his more lucid moments he is self-centred, self-obsessed and generally not very nice which makes him difficult to empathise with. You can understand why not everyone flatters and fawns over him. There is also one scene when he gropes (sexually assaults) a young actress and that might have been funny to an audience in 1980 but it certainly isn't funny now.

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Rehearsal photos: Katherine Parkinson, Ralph Little, Steve Pemberton and cast in Dead Funny (Vaudeville Theatre)

Eleanor wants a child. Richard would oblige if he could, but he's too busy running the Dead Funny Society. When British comedy heroes Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill turn up their toes in the same week the Society gather for a celebration of hilarity and laughter. But Eleanor’s grin masks a grimace. When your marriage is deader than either Morecambe or Wise it's hard to see the funny side of things.

Terry Johnson's comedy Dead Funny opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on Oct 27 and runs to Feb 4 but in the meantime here are some rehearsal pics: 

 

 


Fringe theatre review: The Undead Bard, Theatre N16

The Really Tiny Ever LivingAs the antithesis of Shakespeare's 400th anniversary celebration Robert Crighton has come up with a two part performance that (sort of) questions our obsession with the bard.

In the first half he plays a sweating, divorced professor obsessed with the question of authorship of Shakespeare's plays. He recounts how he tested several theories while playing a cat and mouse game with the 'leather patches on elbows' who want to protect Shakespeare as the author. The result is an ever more paranoid professor with ever more ridiculous theories. The second half sees him channelling the Bard who feels if he can't be 'undead' then he just wants to be left alone and forgotten about.

There are some chuckle-worthy moments and the occasional witty line - it helps if you are familiar with Shakespeare's contemporaries and the theories of authorship - but there just isn't enough of it to fill two 45 minute segments. There are sections which could perhaps work as short sketches but it needs to be cleverer and a lot funnier for a longer piece.

Crighton ends by arguing that we should put on new writing rather reviving old stuff and he does have a point but the old stuff is really rather good which is why it has lasted.

It's two 45 minute segments with a 15 minute interval and I'm giving it two stars. It is on at Theatre N16 in Balham until 13 October.


Review: Acorn antiques meets Downtown Abbey in Sellotape Sisters, Tristan Bates Theatre

SellotapeSisters smallEthel (Charlotte Weston) and Phyllis (Kellie Batchelor) are actors about to make the last live episode of the period drama soap they are starring in. In their dressing room, drinking champagne out of tea cups with fellow actor Rupert (Jonny Freeman), they discuss some of the script writers more dubious plot decisions.

It is classic lovey-bitching, name-dropping and moaning about the next job but when they discover that the script writers have taken inspiration from their own private lives - secret same sex liaisons - which could fatally damage their careers if exposed, the panic sets in.

The 1960s set play's second act is the live broadcast of the final episode which has shades of Acorn Antiques. The actors forget lines, miss cues and their marks, discretely shuffling in or out of shot.  The question is will they stick to the script? The final act is the aftermath of that decision.

Act 1 is a nice amusing warm up to the second act which is where the strength of Sellotape Sisters' lies. It borders farce and is expertly executed and sometimes laugh out loud funny.

The final act has a heavier tone dealing with the consequences of their decisions during the live broadcast and feels like an attempt to give the piece a serious message which doesn't quite work. The 1960s setting serves to demonstrate how attitudes towards gay relationships have changed but I'm not sure weaving it into an farce-like story gives it the punch it needs.

Sellotape Sisters is in the main amusing, entertaining and fun enough for hour long show and I'm giving it three and a half stars.  It is on at the Tristan Bates Theatre until August 20.