Last Sunday afternoon’s trip to Highgate to see The Drowsy Chaperone turned out to be that rare thing: a truly life-changing experience. For the Whingers made the startling discovery that Sunday lunch at The Gatehouse is just £6.99 (your choice of beef, lamb, chicken, pork or vegetarian) including a glass of wine. Sundays will never be the same again.
This put them in a very good place indeed, their stomachs, their moods and their pockets all feeling pleasingly attended to. Nothing but nothing would be able to prick their bubbles of contentment. Although Upstairs at the Gatehouse certainly had a bash.
For some reason it held the curtain for some latecomers who then appeared to get the pick of “reserved” seats exempt from the unallocated seating policy. To be fair, this may have partly been down to Andrew’s confusing tweets to the producer, his Tweetdeck (whatever that is) having apparently given up trying to keep on top of his many Twitter accounts and choosing accounts at random to send messages from (incidentally, read it and weep: as of yesterday Phil has an iPhone. Still think they’re trendy?)*
Anyway, some people arrived and the curtain went up 15 minutes late which if you were a latecomer would have been lovely but would be quite annoying if (a) you had wolfed down your Yorkshire Pudding in order to be on time or (b) you had a sprint across town ahead of you to get to the nether regions of South West London to catch Anita Harris give her Berlington Bertie in the New Wimbledon Theatre’s Centenary Celebration jamboree or (c) both .
The Whingers were getting a bit testy. Andrew thought about starting a Charles Spencer-inspired slow-hand clap. The Drowsy Chaperone‘s matinee had promised a 2 hour running time. (15 minutes longer than the original production due to the insertion of an unnecessary interval). It was not an auspicious start.
Phil spent the time doodling on his pad and discovered that director/producer Racky Plews’ name was actually an anagram of “wrecks play” which seemed somewhat ominous.
Still, they needn’t have worried. 20 minutes in and the Whingers were once more under the spell of Lisa Lambert/Greg Morrison/Bob Martin/Don McKellar’s clever pastiche of 1920s musical theatre.
How lovely to have some tap-dancing (Fabian Aloise), some terrific performances from the plucky cast – Ashley Day (apparently unscathed from giving his Aladdin to Pamela Anderson’s genie at the New Wimbledon) as Robert Martin and Amy Diamond (“came 10th out of thousands in Over The Rainbow”) as Janet van de Graaff made for a perfect leading couple. Seniors Ted Merwood and On The Buses alumnus Urusla Mohan as Underling & Mrs Tottendale were delightful. Michael Howe makes a terrific scene-stealing, scenery chewing Adolpho and Siobhan McCarthy’s Chaperone affects a pleasing whistling pipes sound to her voice that put the Whingers in mind of both Liza Minelli AND Bette Davis, which can’t be bad. Even the gangsters/pasty chefs (Jo Parsons, Will Stokes) were wonderfully engaging. Sadly we can’t link to any of their biographies because the website is written in Flash so you’ll just have to go and hunt for them yourselves. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the website, in what sense is this “the London Premiere”.
It’s not perfect: designer Martin Thomas has perhaps been a little over-ambitious with the set, the decision to portray Trix the Aviatrix (“or, as we would say today, lesbian”) via video jars and Matthew Lloyd Davies‘ Man In Chair lets much of the abundant humour slip between his anxious fingers.
But this is a plucky, ambitious production whose musical numbers are better than anyone had a right to expect. There are at least two very cute innovations in THAT number and the Whingers hooted anew at “What is it about the Asians…” – Indeed, Phil had completely forgotten about that scene and was for a moment – albeit not for the first time – somewhat confused. For Andrew, however, The Drowsy Chaperone is rarely off his gramophone at home and if anyone was going to snipe at this production it was him, and he didn’t.
*Did anyone but Andrew ever think they were trendy? Does anyone apart from Andrew still say trendy? Savour that bitterness. Phil, of course, just had to stump up for the new iPhone-vastly-superior-to-Andrew’s model. But he’ll still call it a mobile.