EXETER & TOURING
THE NORTHCOTT THEATRE – TILL 3 NOVEMBER
SALAD DAYS by Dorothy Reynolds & Julian Slade
RUNNING TIME – 2 hours 20 minutes – 1 interval
Northcott Box Office – 01392 726363
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 30 OCTOBER 2018
If there has been a sillier musical ever written I would be surprised. Just when you have coped with a piano which makes people dance when played, a fashion house called ‘Gusset Creations’ and a mute mime artist you get a space ship landing complete with alien. ‘Salad Days’ is bonkers.
First performed in 1954 it provided a very light-hearted entertainment for the post-war theatre-goers. Famously, it was this show which determined the future career of Sir Cameron Mackintosh and is now revived by the production company Regan de Wynter Williams, responsible for the incredible All Male Gilbert and Sullivan productions – their imprint is firmly to be seen here.
It’s hardly worth trying to explain the plot. As has been mentioned, it is bizarre, but packed with eccentric and colourful characters all accompanied by a very catchy score. The production fairly bowls along with little time to think about the daftness and that is one of the main reasons why it is such fun. Attention to comic timing and ‘business’ means there is always something to make you smile – and I found myself with a grin on my face throughout, interrupted only by hearty chuckles.
The simple set of a bandstand in a park which carried the musical director with his grand piano was set on a sunburst flooring of yellow and green stripes. Now, I know that touring sets get a bit battered from movement and use, but the condition of the flooring was pretty awful – the colours pitted with scuff marks which must surely be erasable. It looked tatty – unlike the rest of the production. A surprise I must say. Other than this the designs were excellent.
The pianist was joined by a double bass and percussion and they provided seamless music throughout.
As the main protagonists Timothy and Jane, Mark Anderson and Jessica Croll are bang on. They approach their roles with skill and panache and without an ounce of self-consciousness and their singing is very easy on the ear. Wendi Peters is a splendid matriarch and her cameo as Aunt Prue is hilarious. James Gulliford (Nigel) and Francesca Pim (Fiona) also don’t hold back on creating very recognisable (if 2 dimensional) characters – they are likeable and silly by turns. The character of Troppo, the mute who looks after the magic piano, Minnie, has irritated me in the past, but Callum Evans manages to gather the affection of the audience and uses his gymnastic skills to very good use. Nathan Elwick is excellent as the policeman, Boot, and his goofy grin and long legs are well employed. A very funny rendition of ‘Sand in My Eyes’ by Maeve Byrne almost brings the house down. There is great work too from Valerie Cutko, Jon Osbaldeston, Jay Worthy, Lewis McBean (a wonderfully camp fashionista amongst other roles) and Ashlee Young – it’s a very strong company and way down the list is the very talented Bradley Judge who I last saw giving an outstanding performance in ‘Pippin’ at the Southwark Playhouse in the summer.
Director Bryan Hodgson has picked up a dusty show and reinvigorated it and with the excellent choreography of Joanne McShane, created a production of great charm, fun and quality. The show is slick and well crafted and the performers serve writers and production team well – their tongues firmly planted in cheeks.
A happy and entertaining piece of nonsense which hits the spot perfectly.
LADY RAEBURN, AUNT PRUE – WENDI PETERS
TIMOTHY – MARK ANDERSON
JANE – JESSICA CROLL
TRAMP – DAN SMITH
NIGEL – JAMES GULLIFORD
FIONA – FRANCESCA PIM
ROWENA – MEGAN ARMSTRONG
TIMOTHY’S MOTHER – VALERIE CUTKO
TIMOTHY’S FATHER, CLAM, WILLIAMS – JON OBALDESTON
INSPECTOR, MANAGER, ZED – JAY WORTHY
ASPHYXIA, ELECTRODE – MAEVE BYRNE
BOOT – NATHAN ELWICK
AMBROSE, FOSDYKE, TOM – LEWIS MCBEAN
TROPPO – CALLUM EVANS
MARGUERITE – ASHLEE YOUNG
SWING – VICTORIA NICOL, BRADLEY JUDGE
DAN SMITH, ANDREW RICHARDS, JOE PICKERING
DIRECTOR – BRYAN HODGSON
CHOREOGRAPHER – JOANNE MCSHANE
DESIGNER – MIKE LEES
LIGHTING DESIGN – TIM DEILING
SOUND DESIGN – TONY GAYLE AUDIO
PHOTO CREDIT – MARK SENIOR