The Pit, London EC2
Opened 18 December, 2006

It's a truism that everyone is middle class these days... but not, I recommend, one to be observed at performance collective Duckie's latest Christmas supper show. Here you get what you pay for, karmically as well as financially. The £14.99 proles in Lower Class (of whom I was one) get a carvery dinner, a cash bar and Carla the brassy hostess, who jollies you along through the meal and the naff tribute acts. For £40, your seat in Upper Class comes with silver service meal and operetta-singing waiters and waitresses. But beware of the third way: the £25 Middle Classes receive a worthy but unexciting, faux-world-cuisine menu and "entertainment" consisting of phoney mediaeval poetry and bad modern dance. And this is what we all aspire to?

As with Duckie's previous shows here, much of the evening's atmosphere depends on one's willingness to get involved: not in the cringeworthy audience-participation sense, but simply being prepared both to chat with the folk at one's table and to banter with the performers – directors Vito Rocco and Mark Whitelaw make sure there is no sense of hierarchy or privilege between company and punters. I am generally shy in these situations, and was more so since it appeared that most of my fellow Lowers had come ready for a raucous, chav-tastic time. However, once I realised that this was a period of licensed misrule and pitched in, things eased up considerably.

This proved especially to be the case during the final third of the evening, when the curtains dividing the various Classes were opened so that we could all watch a succession of parodically class-based cabaret acts on the tiny central stage. Frankly, it was my mates the yobs that kept things alive. The Upper Classes were comfortable and approbatory in a muted, brandied way, and... well, I am not by nature a malicious person, but I felt more than a twinge of Schadenfreude observing my reviewing colleagues in Middle Class, whose responses ranged from sheepish acquiescence to a stony refusal to yield an inch. Because the experience is clearly so variable, it's hard to give an overall rating, but my advice is: workers of the world, unite – you have nothing to lose but your inhibitions!

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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