The production information says it all – conspicuously, Ridiculusmus credit no director. Three young men with no-one responsible for marshalling either script or performances. Left to their own devices to act in an intimate space, they lessen, not the breadth of their portrayals, but their efforts; indeed, at times John Darke as narrator J. hints at what Ken Campbell defines as "the legendary minus quality – when he leaves the stage, the room seems more full". He, and ukulele-playing Angus Barr, sing comic songs while maintaining faces as long as a couple of Lurgan spades; David Ulrick-Woods wisely opts for Sprechgesang instead.
Props are mislaid, physical precision chronically lacking, lines cut and fluffed. All the potentially endearing touches (not least their consciousness of the Little Venice location, perfect for a tale of a leisurely late-Victorian river journey) are suffocated in the overwhelming air of desultoriness that hangs over the whole proceedings. It might have been a bad day (Darke certainly looked every bit as ill as his hypochondriac character believes himself to be), it may be under-rehearsed and will run in, but primarily the company have seriously underestimated the work it takes to whip up a light, frothy entertainment.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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