By: Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde
Directed by: Owen Lewis
Venue: Connaught Theatre
Date: Tuesday 26th June 2007
This performance suffered from a number of factors. Firstly, the audience was as sparse as I’ve seen in the Connaught for a long while. They normally get better attendances than this, but tonight there was very little atmosphere from our side of the curtain. Secondly, the comedy material in the show was not really designed to get the audience involved. The Morecambe and Wise tribute show, The Play What I Wrote, is the opposite of this. They did their time learning how to get an audience on their side, and the material in that show gives the actors plenty of opportunity to interact with the crowd. But the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore stuff is at the start of alternative comedy – satirical and surreal – so it’s more up to the audience to get themselves involved, and if they’re not interested, tough.
Thirdly, the structure of the show didn’t help too much, either. It was done as a chat show from the 80s, with Dudley Moore being interviewed by a combination of Russell Harty and Terry Wogan, and Peter Cook showing up part-way through. We got flashbacks of their days with Beyond the Fringe, etc, so we did get to see a fair bit of their material, but we also got snippets of behind the scenes stuff. I felt this made the whole evening rather clunky. To get into the flashback, they had to get props, etc, and while the set was well constructed to allow for all the different settings, it did limit their movements. Also, the need to dispose of the props, hats, and the rest, after the flashback, meant there were longer gaps than I would have liked between scenes.
Finally, the contents of the play are well known, and have already been explored well on TV, so it’s hard to know just who this play was intended for. Aficionados of their work would only get a modest amount of the humour presented to them, and the darker side of their relationship wasn’t explored in enough depth to be really satisfying.
What did I like? Well, the performances were good enough, and some of the sketches were still fun to see, although it’s very difficult to impersonate such a one-off as Peter Cook effectively. I did like the way that neither Pete nor Dud was made the scapegoat for the problems in their relationship. The various TV programs I’ve seen about them often seem to take one side or the other, but while there’s no doubt that in his later years the drinking made Peter Cook a difficult man to deal with, it’s also likely that there were other factors as well. So well done for keeping a balance. I also liked the way the action often contradicted what was being said on the chat show.
All in all, I was glad when it ended, though I hope it has better luck and bigger audiences for the rest of its run.
© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me