Wednesday, 30 November -0001
A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL
Witless and interminable, Trevor Nunn’s revival fails to reach the boil
Written by Georgina BrownThere's a truly depressing phrase I heard recently applied to someone's disastrous attempt to rekindle a dead love affair. 'You can't reheat yesterday's porridge,' sighed the disappointed woman.
The same expression came to mind at the theatre this week. Twice. The first time was at Let It Be, in which a band of approximate lookalikes with dodgy moptops, and even dodgier moustaches, strum their way through some Beatles numbers. They are competent, but the show is just an expensive tribute concert. By far the most enjoyable bits were the film footage from the Swinging Sixties: hysterical young girls at the Shea Stadium; Twiggy looking twiglike; Diana Rigg in The Avengers. Best of all were the ads: for 'Gluv' shoes, made from so-called 'man-made suede', which resist a torrent of mayonnaise and Tomato Ketchup and for Capstan cigarettes as a blushing bride celebrates her new status by lighting up. This is museum theatre for sad nostalgia-seekers.
The second time was at A Chorus Of Disapproval, the first West End revival of Alan Ayckbourn's 1984 play, which
weaves off-stage shenanigans with rehearsals for an amateur production of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. I didn't see the National Theatre production, with a fabulous cast of Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Gemma Craven and the wonderful Bob Peck, but by all accounts it was a riot and won almost as many awards as the recordbreaking The Norman Conquests.
Trevor Nunn's witless and interminable revival is as dated as the women's Farrah Fawcett hair and the interweaving of The
Beggar's Opera with off-stage life is laboured. By comparison, yesterday's porridge would have slipped down a treat, lumps and all.
Nigel Harman is fine as the implausibly gormless naive widower, Guy Jones, who joins the local amateur operatic society and is seized upon by fellow members with as much subtlety as starving vultures swooping on roadkill, not because they like him but because he fulfils a need. Fay (Daisy Beaumont trying to be Alison Steadman), sees him as fresh meat for her and her awful husband to swing with. Ashley Jensen's Hannah, the neglected wife of the play's director, also latches on to him. Everyone involved in a shady property deal (a piffling subplot) wants his input.
As one by one, people drop out of the show, Jones becomes a very unlikely man of many parts, including the swashbuckling womanising lead, Macheath. Thus life mirrors art and vice versa.
The trouble is, the play never comes to the dramatic boil. The single performance that lifts the production is Rob Brydon's Dafydd ap Llewellyn, egomaniac theatre director, who is never better than when, instead of listening to Jones's audition piece, sings it himself in loud, soulful Welsh.
Until 5 January 2013 at Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, London SW1: 0844-871 7622,
Daily tip from the lady archive
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