There are few things theatrical which will draw the Whingers into the theatre on a weekend, still fewer on a summer’s day as sunny as Sunday’s was, and practically none at all if it also means getting on a bus to Dalston.
It was also Phil’s birthday and despite Andrew’s bullying tactics to get him to attend made Phil even more determined to celebrate it in a manner of his own choosing. But then again, he has had far too many birthdays already, the novelty long since wore off and he agreed to sit in the gloom until the Arcola‘s metaphorical final curtain.
So there we were at Miniaturists 24 for five short plays from assorted writers including dear, dear friend Helen Smith whose play The Memory Man was a bit like Jean Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos, only funny, interesting and moving. It’s always a huge relief when your friends’ work turns out to be genuinely good (and extremely well cast) and you don’t have to avoid them until they’ve forgotten that you saw it and then you accidentally mention it and they ask you what you thought and you hesitate for just one second too long before you start to lie badly.
Anyway, also utterly agreeable was Smile by one of the Whingers’ dear, dear pen-friends actor Simon Treves who interestingly is also a great great nephew of Sir Frederick Treves, the surgeon who treated the Elephant Man. Smile was set in a prison and featured the brilliant scariest man in musical comedy, Nick Holder (the producer Feldzieg in The Drowsy Chaperone; shortly to appear in Assassins at the Union). The Whingers will never be able to look at a Finger Of Fudge in quite the same way again. And to cap it all the role of the prison warder was played by one Ben Crowe whose biography in the programme concluded: “Ben is also planning to spend 2 years in Wormwood Scrubs for aggravated assault when he makes Andrew Lloyd Webber eat his shoes”.
We also enjoyed the very droll two-hander Postfeminism by Samantha Ellis whose widely lauded Cling To Me Like Ivy we wish we had seen but which has yet to make it to London for some reason. Postfeminism was about the relationship difficulties of a boy who is – more literally that figuratively – a child of early 80s feminism. It featured the delightfully groan inducing gag: “My last boyfriend was a puppeteer. He turned out to be manipulative.”
Great fun. The only fly in the ointment was that the whole enterprise was performed in the round and the Whingers were sitting on quite the wrong side of the round. Presumably this was because that’s the configuration of whatever’s playing at the Arcola at the moment. Whatever it is, we shan’t be going. In the round is rubbish. When will people just admit that? Lapsed theatregoers would return in their drovers and think what a boost to the economy the mass erection of proscenium arches would mean. Clearly no-one has thought about it properly.