THEATRE REVIEW: Scandaltown starring Rachael Stirling by Mike Bartlett at Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

By Aline Mahrud

WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2

WHEN? Saturday 10 April, opens 14 April, booking to 14 May 2022 RUNTIME? 150 minutes (including 20-minute interval)

2 years ago 1 of the 1st comedies we had tickets for that was Covid-cancelled was a revival of Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love starring Rachael Stirling at this very venue.

  • Read on for reasons including how Matthew Broome making his stage debut is a name to watch for

Scandaltown is Bartlett’s 2nd new play of the month with Bertie Carvel starring as Trump in The 47th at the Old Vic and his COCK revived in the West End.

While The 47th draws on Shakespearean influences in its meditation on power and what those who aspire to it would do for it, Scandaltown draws on Restoration Comedy while also occasionally descending into farce.

At 1st it appears very much like Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest as we meet Cecilia Appiah’s country-dwelling millenial Phoebe Virtue who lives with her aunt and despairs for her twin brother Jack who she presumes is living a debauched life in the city of London.

We 1st meet hearthrob Jack, Matthew Broome making his professional stage debut, as he strolls out on stage in tight white FCUK underpants after a night of passion with social media consultant Hannah Tweetwell played by Aysha Kala.

Phoebe resolves to disguise herself as a man to get to know libertine Jack and to see just how far into the pits of hell he has descended.

What follows draws on Midsummer Night’s Dream as we head for a masked ball and meet characters including the very David Cameron-looking Matt Eton, played memorably by Richard Goulding who was also in Bartlett’s King Charles III, and delights in stiffly introducing himself to all and sundry as ‘Matt Eton, Secretary of State for Procurement’.

Rachael Stirling plays Lady Climber, a reality TV star with an ageing butler, desperate to employ Tweetwell to boost her social media profile and raise her social standing. Stirling revels in chewing the scenery in an over-the-top part which has the audience roaring with laughter.

An interesting counterpoint is Chukwuma Omambala’s Sir Dennis Hedge looking for some principled youngsters in whom to invest.

We can’t help but compare this with Bartlett’s The 47th – and it’s sharper and funnier although doesn’t include quite such a towering performance at its heart.

As we laugh out loud at this inter-generational battle we can’t help but think of what we missed thanks to Covid not least the Love, Love, Love revival and being glad that we feel firmly on the other side of it.

  • Pictures by Facebook courtesy Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith Tickets
  • Have you heard any of these songs or seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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