If you’re waiting for a review of Nice Fish you’ll have a jolly long wait. Phil was away and sold his tickets to Andrew (What? Did you expect Phil to give them away?) who went with Katy. Both were underwhelmed. The best he could say about it was it was 90 minutes with no interval though even that was too much for people behind him who departed before the end. Bullet dodged.
But, with a busy theatre period ahead (5 shows in 9 days, and Andrew coming along to all but one) what were the chances of being entertained for the second of them, Once in a Lifetime, after the charms of She Loves Me ?
On paper it sounds promising. Christopher Hart’s adaptation of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman‘s 1930 satire on Hollywood is set around the era of the introduction of talking pictures. Phil had seen Sir Trev’s 1979 RSC production with David Suchet, Richard Griffiths, Zoë Wanamaker, which according to Wikipedia ended with an “unforgettable fifteen-minute tap-dancing finale”. Thus proving the inaccuracy of Wikipidia: All Phil could remember was that it featured a giant prop elephant but has no recollection of any tap-dancing at all.
The Jazz Singer has just opened and Hollywood is in a tizz. Jerry (Kevin Bishop), May (Claudie Blakley) and dimwitted George (John Marquez) run a dodgy vaudeville act and head to California after May’s light bulb moment that they can present themselves as elocution experts and set up a school to train actors
unused to managing 8 performances a week unused to speaking on screen. On the train west they run into celebrity gossip columnist Helen Hobart (Lucy Cohu) and inveigle her in their scheme. This leads to an introduction to a bonkers film mogul Herman Glogauer (Harry Enfield in his first proper stage role) when they get to Hollywood.
And we laughed. Marquez does dim so convincingly well it makes his accidental success in Hollywood – among the ditzy wannabee stars and neurotic writers shipped over from New York en masse – seem even more absurdly funny. Cohu swans around in some stonking costumes and is also amusing but, ironically, given the subject, needs to work on her vocal projection. Enfield blusters well and spends a long time in his dressing room.
But it was (as ever) Amanda Lawrence as a fussingly efficient film studio secretary who shamelessly stole every scene she appeared in. Her physical business answering phones, fiddling with her chair and eating a cake left us unable to take our eyes off her. No one else mattered when she was on stage.
Nice to see Richard Jones production is staged on a revolve even if the scenery did sometimes cramp the cast into awkwardly confined spaces. This was Phil’s ninth revolve in 3 consecutive shows. There must be some busy stagehands behind the scenes. Hyemi Shin’s sets manage to be economical yet lavish at the same time. We also appreciated Nicky Gillibrand’s costuming. Lawrence’s stockings are gloriously distracting.
In the theatre bar afterwards we found ourselves admiring Otto Farrant‘s bowl of chips, but not as much as we admired his twin parts as a waiter and especially his frustrated German film director. The latter role is delivered in clipped dry tones and a wig of wonder which offered several chuckles, thus affirming that Brexit not only means Brexit but that we can enjoy laughing at a touch of European stereotyping once again.
Half an hour before the show began there was an announcement that the auditorium was open and to switch off mobiles. If there was another one about phones we didn’t hear it. There certainly wasn’t one just before the play began and sure enough someone (who had already been told by an usher to switch it off) turned hers on to check some obviously very important texts. Just sayin’.