Wednesday, 7 September 2011

One Man, Two Guvnors

Well I had a bit of a palaver getting the tickets for this, as they were officially sold out, so finding a day when I could get up at 5 to queue for day tickets was a bit tricky. The day finally arrived, I got up well before dawn, logged in to my computer whilst drinking my wake-up coffee to find that a large number of returns had been added to the website. So, if I was prepared to pay four times the day seat price I would be guaranteed a seat and a couple more hours back in bed. Obviously I paid up.

The play is about to transfer to the West End, and deservedly so. It makes full use of its Commedia dell’Arte roots, managing to give everyone a roaringly good time whilst clearly and intelligently pointing out what it is up to. At one point my face ached with laughing, not something that happens often enough at the theatre. James Corden appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself and Oliver Chris gave him a great double act partner. All the performances were spot on, and the ad libs and improvisation were so seamlessly handled it wasn’t always clear whether they were scripted to appear off the cuff. Clever, whilst making sure no funny bone was left untickled, this was a slick and perfectly executed event from beginning to end.

I can’t leave this without mentioning the brilliant pastiche 60’s music from Grant Olding and ‘The Craze’ and the musical ‘turns’ by the cast, used to smooth each scene change. Oliver Chris’s musical number was perhaps my favourite, although Daniel Rigby’s acoustic chest beating came a very close second.

I bet this will run for years, so probably no need to hurry, but this cast is fantastic so definitely one to catch if you can.

Top Girls

I didn’t have a clue what was going on in the first act of Top Girls. A Thatcherite career woman (Suranne Jones) having dinner in a swanky 80’s restaurant with a female Pope, Isabella Bird and a range of other historical characters.

Funny and moving as well as bewildering, we hear their stories and learn about their various sacrifices. So, at the first interval we spent some time trying to get to grips with things, despite the poor light and lack of reading glasses which meant I couldn’t cheat by reading the programme. I needn’t have worried as the second and third acts made things crystal clear. Classic political theatre, with the points hammered home, it was still satisfyingly thought provoking, and with great performances from the ensemble cast who each took a range of complementary roles. Written and set in the eighties, the most striking things were sadly, not how much has changed, but how little.

Not one to go for if you are planning an escapist cheery girls night out, but certainly one to make you pause and think a bit. I’d be taking a daughter if I had one, although perhaps, thinking about it, it would be more useful to take my sons.