The Old Vic, London SE1
Opened 15 October, 2001

* She's Over The Hill, he's Over The Top

Ken Ludwig's play is quite possibly the most unfunny West End show I've ever seen, including plays by Ibsen and Eugene O'Neill.

It's not intellectual snobbery on my part, pouring scorn on a show that sets out simply to be a mildly screwball comedy. It's that it's really not very good at all even as mildly screwball comedies go. Two middle-aged American rep actors in the 1950s and a plot that includes adulterous pregnancy, on-off love affairs, hi-jinks onstage and repeatedly mistaken identity ought to ensure that wackiness ensues. It doesn't.

Joan Collins is at least fifteen years older than her character, but expends all her effort trying to play fifteen years younger instead. Frank Langella gives his all in the role of the extravagantly drunken ham, but his all is really far too much. Ray Cooney directs it as if it were one of his own farces, while Ludwig's lengthy programme notes suggest he sees such work as part of a comedic "Great Tradition" thus, he manages to make the play deliberately trivial and to treat it wildly pretentiously at the same time. I laughed twice; both occasions were during the interval, when I was reading Private Eye magazine. The couples on either side of me didn't even return for the second half, and I don't think it was due to my body odour.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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