”This is the B.L.T. Stay tuned for another exciting episode of… Wayne Sheridan: Special Reviewer.”
Dun da da dun da da dun da da dun da da…
In a theatre firing out productions of world weary woe faster than an actor to the bar at a wrap party, who is there left to fight for all that is silly, juvenile and not above an act two drag show?!
It is he … Dick Barton: Special Agent.
As we joined our hero, he seemed in a sticky spot: Suspended upside-down on a rope above a nasty instrument of death, it seemed this show could be over before it’s begun! But Kyle Cluett as Dick Barton stares down his adversary with steely British resolve. Kyle gave the 1940s super spy the sort of patriotic stiff upper lip reserved for meeting the Queen. This strait-laced performance served so well when he later portrayed his sidekick Snowy, portraying DB … a highlight of the show.
Ushering our hero to his doom was the archetypal bad guy Steve Williams as Baron Scarheart. His OTT performance was hysterical made even funnier vit ze eeffill German accent. The kind of cartoon villain so evil he eats puppies for breakfast. All he had to do was walk on stage and I was in stitches. Scarheart then proceeds to lay out the elaborate death which is about to befall DB and then commits the ultimate villain’s mistake of slinking off and assuming it all goes to plan. He arrives at the Vipers Nest Club: think the ‘Queen Vic’ but for super villains! Here we were treated to the sultry seductions of the play’s femme fatale, Marta Heartburn played by Jan Greenhough. She initially seemed so wrong for the part, it almost seemed right but there was no denying she was having great fun with it, so it was easy to go along. Scarheart laid out his evil plan to spike the countries tea reserves with ‘Slunk’, a nasty herb that will leave everyone in the country a mindless slave. With Dick seduced and bedded by Marta, it falls to his trusty sidekicks to save the day. Snowy (bearing an incredible likeness to DB) goes undercover while gruff ‘n’ tuff Jock (Yes, he’s Scottish) gets to work on the lovely Daphne Fritters. Jock was the Dudley Do-Right stand-up man you can rely on in a tight spot and Richard Stewart seemed perfect for the role. He was so solid and stalwart you could build a house on him. Falling for the wide-eyed charms of Jock was Jess Webb as Miss Fritters, who played the quintessential dappy little toff with great joy. She beamed through her scenes and it was fun to see her on stage with Richard again.
In Radioland, Tom Dignum kept the British public (and the audience) abreast of goings on as the BBC radio announcer. Easily the best role I’ve seen Tom play and a great opportunity for him to expand on the comedy performance that we got a taste of in Twelfth Night. He doubled up as Col. Gardner, whose Churchill style garble lent an air of authority. Rounding out the cast were four great performers who took on several different roles, from paparazzi to pole dancers; from chain gang to henchmen: Dennis and Nikki Packam, Peter Yolland and Row Mafham were a delight in every scene with a special, special mention for Rowe in the tea party scene where she was seduced by a false Barton. The show came to a final hurrah with a ludicrous tap dance (to avoid blood sucking ants) and a stand-off on top of Big Ben! With so many set pieces it’s no surprise the master set builder Tony Jenner went for a minimal approach, milking every possible permutation of a half dozen flats. A genius at work!
I’d heard nothing but good things of this show; audiences had been streaming out in tears of laughter and I was truly looking forward to seeing it. On the night I saw it (the last Friday) something seemed amiss: the comic timing was way out, the songs seemed to lack punch and the audience’s laughter level certainly seemed to reflect it. While I had a great time (and anyone within a mile of the theatre will tell you I did), it seemed to misfire and I walked away a little disappointed.
Maybe I’d just caught it on a dodgy night. Directing team Tony and Jess Jenner had put the work in here but it seemed that a little more polish could have made this so much better. That said, it’s always fun to watch your friends frolic onstage and at this chilly time of year, the show provided the requisite chuckles to warm my cheeks. With all this in mind, the most important thing I can say in this review is …
Dun Dun Dun … !
“Will our fearless reviewer mention the array of outstanding costumes by Julie Binysh and Karen O’Neill?
“Will our hero rave about the solid backstage team lead by Nigel Walker?
“Will he say lovely things about the amazing directors so he can continue to snaffle cake from their rehearsals?”
To find out, tune in to next week’s exciting episode!
– Wayne Sheridan