Royal National Theatre (Lyttelton), London SE1
Opened 19 December, 2001

**** The National Theatre of Brent visit their "sister company"

A deliberately scrappy two-man trip through episodes from Salome to Lady Chatterley performed by long-established "incompetents".

Patrick Barlow's alter ego is the self-regarding but largely talentless Desmond Olivier Dingle, artistic director and chief executive of the National Theatre of Brent and, as he declares, "the maison d'être of its artistic policy". His hapless and even less talented sidekick and "entire acting company", Raymond Box, is played gloriously by John Ramm. The yawning gap between the characters' ambitions and their abilities provides much of the entertainment of Brent shows. Following last year's acclaimed The Messiah at the Bush, the duo finally tread the boards of they insist on calling "the Littlewoods Theatre".

In some ways, this is a step back from last year's show - unsurprisingly, since the bulk of the material and presentation style was first seen in Nottingham in 1997 under the title The Mysteries Of Sex. Where their nativity play possessed unexpected moments of genuien poignancy in the intimate pub-theatre setting, this time they rely on hi-tech mishaps to fill the much larger space of the Lyttelton. But the enjoyment remains, with a first half culminating in a massed audience-participation re-enactment of the Ryussian Revolution!

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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