Encore Theatre Magazine
:: Friday, July 07, 2006 ::
There's a club night and CD series called Guilty Pleasures that specialises in the kind of music that we are Supposed Not To Like. David Dundas's 'Jeans On', E.L.O.'s magnificent 'Sweet Talkin' Woman', Marshall Hain's 'Dancing in the City'. Oh, the hours of pleasure these CDs can bring, all the more pleasurable for the sinful taboo-breaking qualities they bear.
What's the theatre equivalent? I think it's something like the current delicious production of Philip King's See How They Run, directed by Douglas Hodge at the Duchess Theatre, London. King's farce is unintellectual - this is pre-Orton, remember - and the jokes are worn by time; the plot is stupid; there is a comic cockney maid; the play is set in a vicarage and as the curtain rises we are confronted with the largest pair of French windows you will have seen on a British stage for fifty years.
But it's a joy from beginning to end. It's a joy because (a) the script does exactly what is required, without affectation or guilt; farce is an almost wholly structural narrative form. get the structure right and the dialogue is pretty easy to write and make funny. So some of the best laughs in the play are utterly unexceptional: 'but we don't have a lily pond', 'there is something in anguish in that wardrobe', and the climactic and brilliant line 'sergeant! arrest most of those vicars!' (b) the actors get it absolutely pitch-perfect; they are slightly larger than life, which allows the show to get the energy up for the wilder physical sequences; they perform out to the audience without self-indulgently craving our affection (the most nauseating thing about most West End acting).
And, in case you're concerned, no one involved in Encore is involved in the production. Far too mainstream for us, darling.