THE DOPPEL GANG
by Dominic Hedges.
3 Stars ***
Tristan Bates Theatre, 1a Tower Street, London WC2H 9NP to 11 February 2017.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 3pm.
Runs 1 hr 40 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 3841 6611.
Full marks for trying but can do better
The idea behind this rather muddled play is good and when the patently talented cast finally get round to performing the Marx Brothers’ routines things do take flight. It takes place during the last war in a run down theatre where things are going from bad to worse. The discovery of some scripts for the Brothers when, during an air raid they end up in a cellar, leads the desperate thespians to decide to perform them in the hope of bring in an audience thinking it is seeing the real thing.
There are back stories about the four, but it all gets very confused and there is so much shifting of bits of scenery and props that one has at times no idea what is going on. Is one back stage, on stage, front of stage? Everyone really needs to sit down and decide what it is all about.
However, that said, Jordan Moore does a really nifty Groucho, Peter Stone manages to conjure up the spirit of Harpo and to present a draft dodging actor who is nothing like him rather well, while Jake Urry, as the grasping boss of the theatre is effectively nasty and – moustache removed – does a good Chico.
The sole woman in the piece, Rachel Hartley, gets to play the inevitable stooge pursued by the brothers as well as the draft dodger’s resigned and sensible girlfriend and does so to considerable and contrasting effect.
Stars are always a blunt instrument for a reviewer, here they are given for the effort the actors have put in to creating the show. But it does need a lot of work. The laughs do not come in Act One when they should, some of the action at the back of the stage is inaudible, and all that shoving and heaving of platforms, prop trunks and make-up tables has to stop. Rashly they quote one of Groucho’s witticisms in the programme – “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening…..but this wasn’t it.” I had an interesting evening, but it could have been a wonderful one…..but this wasn’t it.
Tommy/Harpo: Peter Stone.
Rachel/Collette: Rachel Hartley.
Cyril/Groucho: Jordan Moore.
Lombard/Chico: Jake Urrry.
Director: Terence Mann.
Lighting: Mitchell Reeve.
Sound Design: Terence Mann/