Review – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Donmar Warehouse

Monday 21 February 2011

Dear Mister Grandage

Please find enclosed a “Sorry You’re Leaving Card”.

We know that before you go there’s at least another Pinter, a Schiller and a Shakespeare to get through but in case we should somehow not get round to these we just wanted to say ‘sorry’ for missing the point of some of your European dramas and non-comedic musicals over the years.

We know you meant well by them and fully accept that the inadequacy is ours. We were, after all, the only people in the West End or on Broadway to be underwhelmed by Red.

Does that sound a bit negative? It’s not meant to. We really, really enjoyed many of the things you put on (Streetcar for instance) and are eternally in your debt for introducing us to the world of Enid Bagnold.

And now you have thrown us a delicious parting crumb in the form of a frothy American musical comedy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Music & Lyrics by William Finn. Book by Rachel Sheinkin), which we saw in New York and thought would work well here. And it does.

Christopher Oram‘s transformation of the Donmar auditorium into school gymnasium is so extraordinary we could practically smell the sweat. In fact Phil was sure he did get a distinct whiff of something, but this may have been because Andrew, so excited at the prospect of seeing it again and taking responsibility for herding the Whingers’ biggest ever group outing came out without his Mum.

We also loved the new seats and the pre-show interaction with the cast. The audience participation is a scream especially as Andrew’s cunning strategy of bringing 30 people along to increase the chances of someone from the Whingers’ party being selected paid off. Though desperate to take part himself, Andrew was so busy corralling his troops he was too late to “sign up”, sparing the audience the unseemly spectacle of him loosening his vowels in public.

The casting is quite enchanting and includes Steve Pemberton and two of the best things about Sister Act and Aspects of Love: Ako Mitchell and Katherine Kingsley respectively. The biographical snippets (“Mr Levy recently came third in his schools’ Victor Meldrew lookalike competition”) are a scream.

There is some great singing and your director Jamie Lloyd ensures it all trips along merrily for 95 minutes with no interval.

And if we see a coup de théâtre this year more impressive than the pom pom catching we will eat our own pom poms. Possibly each others’.

Anyway, you already know all this.

What you don’t know is that we have applied to take hold of your stimulating and demanding post on a job-share basis. Phil will be directing the artistry on Mondays and Tuesdays and Andrew will do Wednesdays and Thursdays. We will be alternating Fridays.  Or possibly skipping them. On weekends we intend to be very “hands on” though so expect to find us pouring drinks in the bar. Andrew is also up for a spot of ushing and Phil is eager to introduce merchandising so he can use his Trowbridge Woolies pick ‘n’ mix experience to help out in the shop.

Artistically, we’re afraid there won’t be much time for dredging up forgotten European masterpieces but we will be clearing the decks for an Enid Bagnold retrospective.

You will always be very welcome to revisit our Donmar which, as is the fashion, will be renamed in your honour: The Grandage which sounds, well, rather grand, doesn’t it? Don’t be too shocked to find it reconfigured with a lovely proscenium arch permanently nailed in position and we do hope you enjoy watching innumerable gainfully employed, long-forgotten elderly actresses as they will form the principal direction of our artistry.

Good luck with whatever you do next.

All the best

Andrew & Phil


Rating score 4-5 full-bodied

7 Responses to “Review – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Donmar Warehouse”

  1. garethjames Says:

    You were not the only ones who didn’t like ‘Red’; In one of my shortest reviews ever,, I actually called it ‘shit’ !

    Can I apply for the job of Stage Manager at the Grandage? If they have another power cut, I will be able to tell the actors to bloody well get on with it by candle-light rather than go home and piss off the punters…..

  2. […] chimerical, omphaloskepsis, phylactery and weltanschauung. For those of you who prefer your reviews spoiler-free, the Whingers have reviewed this same night’s performance – fair enough as […]

  3. Lord Andrew Lloyds Slipper Sniffer Says:

    How did I miss the first twenty-four?

  4. Max Gluteus Says:

    Interesting sentiments on Grandages tenancy.
    A real shame you didnt go to see Jacobi’s “Lear.”
    It might be the performance of his career and an Olivier award winner. Yet you missed it?
    You might catch it at Richmond whilst it tours, if you can be bothered?

  5. ChrisM Says:

    If those bloody Whingers get hold of it, I’m definitely cancelling my friend’s membership. Mind you, perhaps I am a little hasty, as I seem to remember I am partial to a slice of Tyzack occasionally. They wouldn’t be able to afford a fruity chunk of Maggie Smith.
    For the moment, I am reassured that the Donmar is still in the safe hands of Mr Grandage with lots to look forward to including Spelli Bee and particularly Eddie Redmayne’s Richard

  6. Lord Yossel Says:

    Great musical. Really works at the Donmar. Definately worth a few bottles of bolly.

  7. Which member of your party participated? Web Cowgirl seemed rather impressed. But didn’t name the “cute, tall guy”.

    I was offered a ticket. But frankly, it sounds too dreadful for words.

    I’m going to the LaBute instead. So I can be bitter in good company.

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