The policy of the West End Whingers this year is to take fewer risks by reading the what the critics have to say and then plodding mindlessly in their wake.
So first off for 2008 was a visit to a Saturday matinee of the much acclaimed Dealer’s Choice at the Trafalgar Studios which seemed to have been been received rather warmly:
Would it come up trumps or would the Whingers be dealt their usual lousy theatrical hands? Both Whingers had seen Patrick Marber‘s play first time round in 1995 but neither could remember a thing about it other than that it was centred around a poker game which wasn’t much of an incentive: Phil knows nothing about poker (the only dealing he’s acquainted with is his afternoon shot of his TV fave Deal Or No Deal) and Andrew’s monthly afternoon whist drive didn’t promise to deliver much in the way of expertise. And it’s an all male cast.
The mood was not helped by the fact that the Trafalgar Studios is hardly the Whingers’ favourite auditorium – any further back than row F and you might as well be watching from the top of the Gherkin.
But apart from all that, they went with open (empty?) minds.
Both perked up to find that the first act was played out partly in a restaurant kitchen. While the (capacity!) matinee audience fussed around trying to find their seats (Clue: There is a letter and a number on your ticket. These correspond to a particular row and seat. You’re not at the Menier Chocolate Factory now) Ross Boatman (eight series of London’s Burning and a professional poker player to boot) was preparing food! You can imagine Phil’s excitement as he watched Mr B chopping, slicing and dicing and then peeling live potatoes, there was even a bowl of cherry tomatoes, what a fabulous start to the new year for Phil.
Sadly no food was consumed on the stage (except possibly a Snickers bar – forgot to pay attention) although there were copious amounts of red wine drunk. This made the Whingers feel very at home and when Andrew suggested an interval drink Phil assumed he meant wine (remember this was a matinee, but that wasn’t going to stop Phil). Andrew stuck to overpriced mineral water then proceeded to swig from Phil’s wine anyway. Let us pray that neither Whinger is carrying the norovirus; the theatre has enough potential to induce projectile vomiting without throwing a nasty bug into the equation.
Samuel West ‘s production is as good as they say. Top marks all round to the cast too, but especially Stephen Wight (who made such an impression in Don Juan in Soho) as Mugsy who proves himself to be something of a comic genius – the new Rory Kinnear perhaps?
The relatively starry cast also includes Samuel Barnett (the original Posner in The History Boys), Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger in Only Fools and Horses; Owen in The Vicar of Dibley) and Jay Simpson (Rome). But the top marks for acting go to Malcolm Sinclair (right, playing the double agent Dryden shot by Bond in the pre-title sequence of Casino Royale, another poker-themed work).
The acting was excellent, the cast seemed to have a real chemistry between them, or perhaps this just good acting? Clever folk these actors, West had clearly drilled them well. However the Whingers found themselves preoccupied by rather more prosaic matters. For example, they couldn’t decide whether the play had been updated or not. Were Snickers bars around in 1995? (Yes, Marathon was renamed Snickers in 1989). Did people have mobile phones in 1995? (Yes, but only about five million subscribers compared with 70 million today).
Then there was the matter of the chips and cards in the poker game itself. This seemed such an extraordinary feat of stage management that the cards played were the same as those mentioned in the text! There were so many deals and so much counting of chips that the Whingers sat in awe of the level of organisation that must be applied by the props people. And where were all the fresh pre-sorted packs hidden? Under the table? It was astonishing.
Yes a jolly good show all round, a great deal and a good choice for their first theatrical foray of 2008, the Whinger’s used the Get Out of London Theatre offer (as Phil calls it) for their cut price seats. Highly recommended but check what seat’s you are being offered before buying.
Chewing on a Mexican at Wahaca later the Whingers reflected on how difficult all this must be – an actor mis-dealing the cards would throw the whole thing out. Does it ever happen? They were tempted to go back for the evening performance. Moreover, Phil was tempted to ask Ross Boatman and Stephen Wight who were sitting just two tables away from them. Andrew dissuaded Phil from pouncing on them, but is regretting it now.
Apart from the terrible seating, the worst thing about the Trafalgar Studios is the way they mock you by having huge pictures of real stars such as Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, Diana Rigg and Beryl Reid all over the walls. It’s as though they are rubbing it in that you won’t be seeing any real stars. It’s unkind really.
On the plus side, they have installed a Dyson Airblade in the toilets. Andrew was thrilled, never having seen one before, but Phil (who has hygiene issues with hand dryers) couldn’t be persuaded to give it a whirl. Perhaps this will help:
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Dirty air in, clean air out
Other hand dryers suck in dirty washroom air and blow it onto clean hands.
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Other hand dryers are a breeding ground for washroom bacteria. When users touch them (either by accident or to start them) these germs end up being transferred.
Dyson Airblade™ is infused with anti-microbial additives to reduce incumbent bacteria and mould by 99.9% and lower the possibility of user contamination.