Monday, 30 November -0001

Vicious

Two knights of the stage fling themselves into farce

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ben-Felsenburg-colour-176Would it be fair to label Vicious (ITV, Monday, 9pm) as camp? Well, let’s just say there’s enough mince to keep a sizeable chain of butchers well stocked. Returning for a second series, the singularly old-fashioned sitcom – complete with raucous audience laughter – remains as basic as can be. Indeed, the ‘sit’ itself is wispy to the point of non-existence: Freddie and Stuart, an ageing thespian gay couple, exchange bitchy banter with each other and their eccentric circle of friends. And that’s about it.

This, emphatically, is not a show that will change your life. In fact, you’ll probably have entirely forgotten about Vicious moments after you’ve seen it. But while we’re watching, we’re here for the stars, Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, two great acting knights whose brilliance has illuminated the English stage for more than half a century, now delightedly throwing themselves body and soul into the low farce. Jacobi’s put-upon Stuart is all busy, fidgety hands and excited screeches, alongside the permanently pursed lips and stentorian rumble of McKellen as Freddie. In the first episode, the bickering couple pretend to be a butler – Freddie – and his aggressively heterosexual master – Stuart – all to indulge the need of their lush pal, Violet (Frances de la Tour, also happily slumming it) to impress her sister. The trading-places plot is straight out of Farce 101, and the cast hit every comedy beat perfectly over 20-odd minutes that would stretch our patience were matters to last a second longer.

NOT TO BE MISSED

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