WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Vaudeville Theatre
WHEN: 12/1, press night 22/1, runs to 7/4
Director Kathy Burke has written a song called Keep Your Hands Off which is sung by Jennifer Saunders (pictured centre above), accompanied by members of the cast on instruments, as a distraction as the scenery is shifted during this comedy’s second act.
- Read on for reasons including why Jennifer Saunders is the funniest thing in this fine comedy
Saunders is playing the Duchess of Berwick in Oscar Wilde’s late 19th Century comedy that’s not quite as funny as The Importance Of Being Earnest but shares enough similarities with it to be a laugh-out-loud riot, particularly in this wonderful incarnation.
Fans of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s fantastic BBC Radio 5 Live Film Review will be familiar with the idea behind the six-laughs test, a barometer of whether a supposed comedy is actually funny.
We’d venture that Burke’s superior production of this Wilde favourite achieves those half dozen laughs within minutes and Saunders’ solo spot (mentioned in the intro above) provokes many more within its short duration.
It’s a trick we remarked upon late last year when we reviewed A Woman Of No Importance, the first in this year-long Wilde season produced by Dominic Dromgoole’s Classic Spring theatre company at the Vaudeville.
Lady Windermere (the fine Grace Molony, a name to look out for in the future) fears her husband (played by Joshua James who we last saw in an absolutely fabulous Chekhov all-dayer at the National) is being unfaithful with the mysterious Mrs Erlynne (the always reliable Samantha Spiro giving us maximum unrepentance, at least initially) and the scene is set for a tightly plotted period comedy.
What we weren’t expecting was a multi-laugh sight gag featuring Kevin Bishop playing Lord Darlington who boasts one of Wilde’s most beautiful lines, ‘We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.’.
Also the set design is riot of pink, boasts a subtle fan motif and allows for an almost-hidden moment between two minor characters that the gays in the audience (including us) very much enjoyed.
They say never meet your heroes and we can see director Burke in the auditorium at the interval receiving what we assume are much-deserved congratulations. We don’t join in but if we wanted to say anything it would be that this was brilliant and we’d love to see her bestow her magic touch on so much more theatre.