THEATRE Then Again... Lyric, Hammersmith
Friday 28 March 1997
His latest - simpler but wonderfully enjoyable - exercise along these lines is Then Again..., an entertainment that sets out to reinvent the art of revue with its mix of songs and sketches, its intimacy with the audience, its habit of using its polite reputation as a cover for smuggling in the improper and subversive, and its strong associations (especially in the Fifties) with the Lyric, Hammersmith where Bartlett is now artistic director.
Harold Pinter wrote material for the Lyric's 1959 show One to Another and the brilliantly funny and versatile Sheila Hancock appeared in it. Both are to be found straddling the epoch now in Then Again..., Pinter with his contribution to the Fifties revue and a new sketch, and Hancock as part of a top-notch performing team that includes, from the world of alternative comedy and improv, Dawn French and Neil Mullarkey, from the classical stage and panto, the appealingly bulky Desmond Barritt, and at the piano, John Gould, whose spiritual home is in Flanders and Swann country.
These piquant juxtapositions of generation and style are a calculated feature of the contents too. Material from the past (such as the three highly amusing pieces by NF Simpson) rub shoulders with fine, newly commissioned work by the likes of Stephen Fry, Richard Curtis and Julian Clary. This only becomes an invidious business in the case of Pinter who has a foot in both camps.
His 1959 sketch, "The Black and White", with its two dispossessed old women measuring out their lives by the buses they can spot from an all- night London cafe ("It don't look like an all-night bus in daylight, do it?") is a brilliant piece of observation and in its precise appreciative ear for the comic potential of slow, relentless banality seems to anticipate the later rabbitings of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The new sketch, "God's Own District", which has Dawn French playing a proselytising American Christian over in London to convert the populace, is a crude, largely mirthless insistence that you notice the sinister bigotry, cultural provincialism and imperialist designs of these insincerely beaming folk. A sketch about the embarrassment of having to ring up Pinter to tell him you were turning down a disguised sermon like "God's Own District" - now that would have some comic mileage.
The success rate, elsewhere, in both words and music is admirably high. I'm ashamed to say that the piece which nearly reduced me to a stretcher case I was laughing so helplessly was "A Few Words", attributed to the prolific Anon for reasons which will become evident. In it, flanked by a vicar, a bemedalled Desmond Barritt delivers a funeral oration about his friend General Sir John Scott-Trevelyan. "For 50 years," says Barritt in the sanctimonious tones of old England, "no one has called him John. So what was it about old Cunty that made him such an unforgettable character?" He was a man who knew the meaning of the words honour, responsibility, courage; it was only with the C-word he had a problem. Hearing about his consequent misadventures, you know the meaning of the word "delirious".
To 19 April. Booking: 0181-741 2311
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
- 2 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 3 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 4 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Monty Python-inspired Australian Sam Simmons wins comedy award with 'very silly' show
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge?'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up