I’ve managed to get really behind with feeding back about all the shows we’ve seen recently. So I’m going to do a right rush job here, with apologies to anyone who’s remotely interested.
Saw Jimmy Carr on Sunday 6th March at the Derngate. I had been really looking forward to that one as I’d never seen him live before and he has a reputation for being a pretty strong act.
We enjoyed it but with reservations. He did a couple of sequences where the jokes followed the format of a lecture, with powerpoint type illustrations. These illustrations were rather crude and had the effect of limiting the joke, confining it to just how the illustration looked. With no illustration, it would have played on one’s imagination more, which would have been funnier.
Another point – and I am no prude – BUT… At one point (actually with one of those illustrations) he condemns Jim Davidson as being a racist comedian – and I have no problem with that condemnation. But on the other hand, during the course of the evening I think he told about 12 jokes that were basically about men raping women. Not sex – sex is funny. Rape isn’t funny. I think it’s a bit hypocritical to complain about one form of abuse and then make fun of another. Call me old-fashioned.
Anyway, entertaining thought the evening was, I didn’t think he got the rapturous reception from the audience that I expected. One guy from the circle turned on him and said he was boring. I had some sympathy.
Thursday 11th March, another Screaming Blue Murder, at the Underground. Three comics – Sally Ann Heyward, John Gordillo and Noel James. We liked them all. Can’t go into too much detail about their routines as, frankly, I have largely forgotten them. But it was a good night as always. We’re not seeing the next Screaming Blue Murder, there’s just too much going on at the moment to fit it in. Shame. Hopefully there’ll be another season later in the year.
Thursday 18th March saw the Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Filter Company’s Three Sisters by Chekhov. I love a bit of Chekhov, me. I would think of myself as being a bit of a purist when it comes to this. I know you can successfully push and pull Shakespeare around by modernising productions and it still works. Would it work with Chekhov? I had my doubts.
To be honest, the main problem I had with this is that it wasn’t quite avant garde enough to be a really modern production, nor was it classically purist enough for it to be, well, classic. One of the company’s trademarks is that they amplify sound where you don’t expect it. And this can be very effective. I liked very much their amplifying the whispering conversation between Andrey and Natasha at the end of the first scene. At another point, they amplified the sound of a kettle boiling. I found it quite riveting. That was when Mrs Chrisparkle started to nod off.
The cast were excellent, and the mishmash of accents added to the modernity of the thing; the Royal’s stage was used extremely well; and it went down well with the audience. The production seemed to dwell on the relationships and love stories (such as they are) in the plot, and not so much on the elusive dream of “getting back to Moscow”. Not quite sure I liked that emphasis. Anyway, the answer is that Chekhov does stand a bit of updating, but I would like to have seen it push the boundaries even more. And I’m a purist. I surprise myself saying that.
Monday 22nd March, the first night locally of Clive Mantle’s performance as Tommy Cooper in “Jus Like That”. I am in total awe of Mr Mantle’s hard work. It’s a huge tour, often staying just one night in a theatre before moving off the next day to some distant venue, etc and etc.
I had the pleasure of seeing Tommy Cooper at the Palladium when I was ten years old. Dad took me to see “To See Such Fun”, one of those reviews they used to have that just lasted a week. The line up was Tommy Cooper, Clive Dunn, Anita Harris and Russ Conway. I loved it. I got to meet Tommy Cooper briefly in one of the cafes opposite the Palladium before the show started and got his autograph. He was very nice to me. Happy memories.
The problem with Jus’ Like That is an obvious one. Tommy Cooper had his own magic (literally) and Clive Mantle isn’t Tommy Cooper. Tommy Cooper is dead. So this production really is in many respects trying to fulfil an impossible dream. His is a good portrayal of TC, he has the height for it but not quite the bulk, his face is not quite as alcohol and cigar-affected as TC’s and the very pale makeup he wore actually looked a bit creepy to me. (My memory is that TC had quite a ruddy complexion?) The voice is good, the enthusiasm is good, and the script is sometimes word for word what you remember from watching TC on TV in his comedy programmes; but the play itself (especially in the first half, which is basically watching a Tommy Cooper show) relies heavily on the audience loving it from the beginning, and there are some pauses where we obviously should have been continuing to laugh, and we weren’t. It almost required a warm-up act. As it was a Monday, we only had small Sauvignon Blancs to start, rather than the large ones, and we weren’t quite warmed sufficiently.
I found the second half much more interesting, where you see TC backstage, coping with stardom, alcohol, physical ageing; and this is where Clive Mantle comes into his own, as you feel like this is the real thing. Then there is more TC performance stuff, including his final routine – I remember watching it on Live at Her Majesty’s on TV, must be about thirty years ago now – and this is performed to great effect.
I’d definitely recommend it – and Clive Mantle’s performance is outstanding in many respects. But he’s not the real Tommy Cooper, and thus you come away from the theatre slightly more rueful than buzzed with hilarity. Not because of the show, but because he’s no longer with us.
Oh, and it also has the lovely Carla Mendonca, who I saw in Daisy Pulls It Off about 100 years ago.