By Tom Stoppard
4 Stars ****
Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7EZ to 29 April 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0330 333 4809.
Review: William Russell 15 February.
Pleasure pure and perfect from a terrific revival
Patrick Marber’s production of Travesties won plaudits when it opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory last year, not least for Tom Hollander who leads a first rate cast as Henry Carr, the British consul in Zurich in 1917 who met Lenin, James Joyce and Tristan Tzara. It is a sparkling production and has lost none of its shine in translating to the West End.
The play opened first in 1974 with John Wood playing Carr – Stoppard wrote the role for him – giving a memorable performance. Hollander is very different, but equally wonderful as the aged Carr recalling the events of 1917 in his dotage and getting it all ever so slightly mixed up.
As well as his arguments with Joyce, Lenin and Tzara, he was involved playing Algernon in a production of The Importance of Being Ernest staged by Joyce which gets inextricably mixed up in his memory. He is also convinced he played a role of significance in all their lives, which was not the case. The result is hilarious and mind boggling as at times one really does not know where one is or what is going on.
But it does not matter. The arguments about Dada put by Tzara, about the creation of Ulysses by Joyce and about Lenin’s view of art in a Communist society rage and the audience follows them or not as may be.
The jokes are so good any feeling of being intellectually overwhelmed – Stoppard can make his audiences feel like dullards at times – does not matter and the performances really could not be bettered. Hollander, switching between the befuddled old man with the failing memory and the vain young consular official more concerned with what he is going to wear as Algernon, gives a performance to treasure. But there is a lovely popinjay Tzara from Freddie Fox – living up to the Fox family tradition – and a briskly sexy Cecily from Clare Foster as well as a humourless great writer comic turn from Peter McDonald as Joyce. Look out for the white rabbit and what Tzara gets up to under the tablecloth. This is as good a revival as could be.
Tristan Tzara: Freddie Fox.
Cecily: Clare Foster.
James Joyce: Peter McDonald.
Gwendolen: Amy Morgan.
Nadya: Sarah Quist.
Lenin: Forbes Masson.
Henry Carr: Tom Hollander.
Bennett: Tim Wallers.
Director: Patrick Marber.
Set &Costume Design: Tim Hatley.
Lighting Design: Neil Austin.
Sound Design & Original Music: Adam Cork.
Movement: Polly Bennett.
Wigs Design: Betty Marini.
Associate Director: Kate O’Connor.