“Yes – but apart from that – how did you enjoy the play, Mrs Lincoln?”
Right, that’s got that old gag out of the way.
Andrew was rather touched and slightly bewildered when Phil turned up at his door on Saturday with a full motorcade to drive them to the Landor Theatre to see Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins (book by John Weidman).
Why the open-top limo on such a cool January evening? Was that a maniacal grin playing across Phil’s mouth? What was with the pink pillbox hat?
And why the elaborate detour taking in the grassy knoll at Larkhall Park fields and Lambeth education department’s book depositary?
As it was, the procession passed uneventfully (although Phil arrived looking very like a madman in a hat whose plans have been cruelly thwarted) but it did mean that the Whingers missed the imaginative “Thought for the Weekend” at Clapham North tube station which merrily suggested that:
Got the right
To be happy.
Don’t stay mad,
Life’s not as bad
As it seems.
If you keep your
Goal in sight,
You can climb to
Got the right
To their dreams…
Well, given that the context of Sondheim’s lyrics is the assassination (or attempted assassination) of various US presidents that’s quite provocative and possibly a contravention of terrorism legislation, but it was nice to see a joined-up fully integrated transport policy at work finally.
Anyway, you’re expecting something about unallocated seating. Well, yes, the Whingers normally make a terrible fuss about unreserved seating but since the Landor allows, nay, practically forces you to take in your beverage in its actual glass and don’t seem to mind you taking in the bottle (or bottles in the Whingers’ case) they decided not to make a fuss about the seating policy, seeing it as a very reasonable trade-off.
The Landor might have got away with it too if about eight of the seats had not had “Reserved” signs on them which just goes to show that they can reserve seats if they try. Our party of eight, meanwhile, were scattered around the auditorium
So, to the show. It started dreadfully with the opening number completely drowned by the band but happily it all soon sorted itself out and the Whingers enjoyed a clutch of excellent performances. Jenni Bowden (playing Sara Jane Moore) was Phil’s particular favourite while Christopher Ragland (John Wilkes Booth) and Nathan Kiley (the Balladeer) impressed Andrew, although Phil found himself irritated by Kiley’s hair which (to Phil’s mind) screamed “low-rent John Barrowman”.
Andrew disagreed vehamently and dragged Phil out of the auditorium litterred with firearms fearing an assassination attempt.
Other highlights included Phil doing his signature sneeze and making an almighty clinking fuss as he insisted on refilling the party members’ glasses of wine from the smuggled-in bottle .
On stage, meanwhile, there was an excellent paper-burning moment which drew gasps of awe from the audience. But how was it done? Had it been soaked in meths? Phil examined Andrew’s empty bottle carefully and concluded he’d been probably been helping outing the props department.
Assassins is not Sondheim’s most tuneful score but it’s an interesting concept and the 1hr 45 minutes without an interval would have flown by were it not for the fact that everyone in the party found they wanted to go to the toilet from about 30 minutes in.
A mixed reception from the eight: some hated the score; others said they had seen better productions of Assassins.
But the Whingers were quite impressed. It’s true that they were determined to enjoy it because the run is sold out. So even if it wasn’t good, they would say it was just so that other people can feel bad about not being able to get a ticket.
And this is undoubtedly a good debut production for West 72nd Productions – “a new professional company run by producer Josh Black, with the aim to showcase new and exciting talent in the musical theatre industry”.
As a nod to the fact that the Landor was celebrating Australia Day, the Whingers had seen fit to ensure that 25% of their party were refugees from the former penal colony.
So it was a shame for the chosen two that their entire nation was shown up when Lee Harvey Oswald’s big dramatic scene was accompanied by a cacophany of partying Aussies from the pub below.
Future WEW outings may therefore be 25% smaller than this one and when Phil and Andrew come to power they will all be transported back anyway.
The Whingers on their way to the theatre: