A lot seems to happen in A Very Very Very Dark Matter (Bridge Theatre), often in the literal and metaphorical dark, with no attempt to explain why. I imagine if ‘Nessa’ from Gavin & Stacey had been in the audience she would have been regularly asking “what’s occurring”? My answer would have been, sit back and think of Barry. Martin McDonagh’s play, the man responsible for that remarkable film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, takes us on a ride that is indulgent, inventive and deliberately offensive, so much so that current leaders in Brazil, the USA and elsewhere would approve of the provocative rhetoric.

Bear in mind this is the same person who wrote The Lieutenant of Inishmore – which I saw back in 2002 noting this was a playwright worth watching – a black comedy in which the ‘mad’ leader of an Irish National Liberation Army splinter group discovers that his cat may been killed. Cue pandemonium, hilarity and farce, all ending with the said feline being offered a bowl of cereal to calm it down after the trauma it has endured. So, we should not be surprised but I was and happily so. We all love a little bit of ‘crazy’ sometimes.

We see an infantile Hans Christian Andersen, exposed here as a phoney, the big reveal being that all his stories and fairy tales have been written for him by Marjory, a petite Congolese woman who he has held hostage in a box in the garret of his gothic home. Designer Anna Fleischle’s makes this attic look like a place of torture or potential murder with spooky puppets in every nook and cranny. The ideal home for the likes of nefarious ventriloquist doll Annabelle or Bette Davis from ‘Baby Jane. It looks dank and dangerous and immediately draws parallels with the horrors of slavery though his ire is mainly targeted at hypocrisy. Here specifically the deliberate ignorance of colonial powers to recognise horrific and heinous crimes being committed in their name while they go about their business with apparent disregard. The parallels today are manifold.

Matthew Dunster’s barely suppressed melodramatic production draws out the amorality with a hop, skip and a jump, and the cast revel in the inferno of ideas that McDonagh brings to the party. Jim Broadbent (Andersen) is a brilliant twit and Phil Daniels (Charles Dickens) a picture of superiority treating his unwelcome guest with disdain. Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles (Marjory) gives a performance of great craft and maturity for one so young. Euphemisms and allegories abound and the symbolism is ubiquitous. The Tom Waits voiceover is a gem, a perfect match for this madness.

Meanwhile Sue Efthyvoulou bathes in drama…

Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (London Coliseum) is the story of an innocent woman, Lucia, who is constantly manipulated by causing her to descend into insanity. The themes include family rivalry, thwarted love, unhealthy obsessions and a doomed political marriage. Hardly dramatic at all. This is an amazing production, occasionally over the top but I excused director David Alden falling for that temptation because the impact is overwhelmingly wonderful. Sarah Tynan as Lucia is more than outstanding. She has an astonishing voice – she makes heavenly sounds effortlessly even if she does end up a bloody mess at the end! The other outstanding performance is Clive Bayley who plays Raimondo Bidebent, the Chaplain. He has an exceptionally clear and powerful voice.

The set is simple but very effective. Mu first Lucia’ and hopefully not my last.

And Lallibella Belay is still tapping her feet…

Devin Perry’s Tap Dogs (Peacock Theatre), wow what a show, just under one and a half hours of high-octane energy coupled with tip-top dance skills. It undersells itself in some ways as it is so much more than just dance, including gymnastics, flashy trick stuff and a real spectacle. Not quite a thrill a minute but enough entertainment to keep even my 10-year old son, who accompanied me, rapt. The sextet of men that make up the troupe are sexy and scintillating and they each play characters who take the rise out of each other while leaping, laughing and tapping. They even do it upside down, tap that is, and the bonus is a really cute Kid, the youngest of the group, there to produce the “aah” factor. He does, we did. Tapping magic and you have just three days to catch it.

Finally, Robbo Mike is wary of the libel trap…

This week I will be very careful what I say and how I say it. Bookseller William Hone wasn’t and in 1817 this unfortunate chap, a bookseller and publisher by trade, took the mickey out of the government, church and monarchy. He ended up in court accused of seditious libel. Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s play, Trial by Laughter (Yvonne Arnaud), stands up for the ‘common’ man and Hone is really their hero, after all he only made people laugh. As does this play. The contrast between Hone (Joseph Prowen) and the Prince Regent (Jeremy Lloyd) sums up his difficulty. He is erudite and clear, the King to be is off his trolley. Apart from giving us an insight into history it makes the point very strongly that we live in similar times though that seems to be happening in many productions right now. An enjoyable show in need of a few more laughs and momentum to get us really engaged.


A Very Very Very Dark Matter – 0333 320 0051

Lucia di Lammermoor – 020 7845 9300

Tap Dogs – 020 7863 8222

Barney Efthimiou


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