Skip to main content

The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre, London

From the moment Ben Miller strides onto the stage of the Vaudeville and delivers a concise and funny introduction to proceedings, I got the uncanny feeling that I was going to like this play. A lot.

Written by Dan Patterson (Mock the Week) and Colin Swash (Have I Got News For You and Private Eye), this is a comedy (read farce) of the highest order. Set in May 2009, that wonderful time when our beloved MP's were exposed as the expenses villains we now know them as, this is near the knuckle stuff. The early part takes great joy in creating comedy from what we now know, lampooning many that were later to be in government in a very knowing and very funny way.

The lead roll of MP on the turn Robert Houston is played with delicious exuberance by Ben Miller, when needed, channeling the supreme reaches of an out of control Basil Fawlty, while still being able to deliver those so subtle jokes so well. He just seems not only perfect for the role, but totally enjoying it. Making it all the better for us.

Having seen Miller on television a great deal, none of this is really a surprise. Simon Shepherd though for me was a standout surprise. Very much more familiar for serious roles, his part in this as Sir Norman Cavendish is a revelation. Giving his all, especially in his hysterical second act performance, he really was the surprise of the play.

The rest of the cast were unfamiliar to me (yes even Diana Vickers, what is The X-Factor?!?) but without a shadow of a doubt all are superb. Off the four Debbie Chazen is the best (Add Russian accent "Hello"); sadly very much underused in the second act, as Russian housekeeper Ludmilla. Pretty much stealing every scene she appears in, she is a delight.

That is not to detract from the remaining three performers, with Nancy Carroll superb as the technophobe wife Felicity Hoffman, and James Musgrave pulling off several costumes with style and verve, yes even that *spoilers* suit as son Seb. Diana Vickers has less to do as Seb's girlfriend Holly, only appearing in the second act, but having a "hard hitting" role and the best costume of the show, even more than that *spoiler* suit. Although I may be biased in that.

The set is perfect also, with the first act being very much a farce set, standard living room laden with goods (not sure who paid for them), while the second act set is bang on and neatly presented at the start by a startled Miller.

There is no question that if it is humanly possible for you to get to see this play then you should. Some of the funniest moments you are likely to see this year (or next), be it TV, film or theatre. Featuring the best acupuncture joke I have ever heard, the best use of a *spoiler* suit ever, impressive use of dairy product in a running gag and a cast performance from the gods. Please stop reading this and go and buy a ticket will you, but I am afraid that you are paying...

The Duck House is on at the Vaudeville Theatre, London until March 29th 2014.
www.vaudeville-theatre.co.uk/The-Duck-House.html


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Balm in Gilead, University of Northampton BA Acting (Creative Acting) at Maidwell Hall, Northampton

Watching the production of Balm in Gilead sees my entering the fifth year of following the University of Northampton acting students, and what theatre they have provided over the years!

Balm in Gilead is no less intriguing than anything that has gone before, written in 1965 by Lanford Wilson, you might think this would be a dated item for the young students to be performing, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Set in a cafe (transposed to England from its original American setting), it sees the lives of addicts, homeless and sex workers converge into a mixture of good but mostly bad moments.
My first time in the Maidwell Hall saw an encounter with a brilliantly realised community full of the world of the cafe and the surrounding homes, cardboard boxes and dishevelled beds. As we enter the characters of this world begin living alongside us, addressing us, begging us for money, pushing shopping trolleys around offering off the cuff exchanges with the audience and confronti…

Review of This Evil Thing at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This Evil Thing written and performed by Michael Mears isn't my first encounter with a play about conscientious objectors, however, it absolutely is the most detailed in its explanation of the subject. A clear and absolute labour of love from Michael Mears, and an obviously very personal thing for him, it leaves the audience pretty much in its grip for the whole of its 80 minutes.

Almost uniquely, our performer Michael Mears is in the theatre stalls upon entry, observing the arrival of the audience and indeed exchanging conversation at times. It's fascinating to see a performer not only there, but seemingly so relaxed pre-show and as he bounds on the stage at show start, this little nugget proves intriguing in itself.

Michael Mears is a captivating presence on stage, as previously experienced on the same stage in A Tale Of Two Cities and The Herbal Bed, therefore it comes as little surprise that he has a confident ability to make a one-man show work, and so well. With the use …

Review of Blood Brothers at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

A theatre in the east midlands, a thousand people stand applauding and cheering towards a stage where fourteen people stand. There on the stage, they bow, and bow, an inordinate number of times. They depart after a time and the lights come up over the capacity audience.

So did you hear the story of the Blood Brothers show, how people flocked and came to see them play?
Did you never hear about how we came to be, standing applauding the brightly lit stage this November day?
Come judge for yourselves how this night did come to be.

Blood Brothers was a significant show for me back in 2014, being the first musical that I saw live. Hiding up in the upper circle of the Derngate back then, not really sure what to expect, it was it turned out perhaps the perfect show to graduate me from play to musical that I could choose as Willy Russell's gritty and solid story is as confident as a straight play that perhaps any musical is. So strong is the story of the Johnstone's twins, that it liv…