The sins of the fathers : THEATRE
Mad and Her Dad Lyric Studio, London W6
Saturday 04 February 1995
In spirit, though, the shows could hardly be more different. Small-scale and irreverent, Mad and Her Dad keeps puncturing pretensions whereas Out of the Blue never established its right to the pretensions it kept inflating. In the earlier piece, major historical events and the forces of racial prejudice tore the father-daughter pair apart, whereas in this latest one the cause is nothing more earth-shattering than the artist-father's abandonment of his family as an itchy-footed hippie. And they are brought together by a series of accidents that cannot be accused of the slightest dignity: the father, a 1960s-nostalgic, designs a range of pornographic wallpaper which threatens to bring scandal and ruin to the daughter's new boyfriend, the young head of a family wallpaper firm.
Yes, this must be one of the few musicals ever to include such lyrical technical terms as "24-inch repeats" in its songs. It is also one of the few to be arranged for string quartet as sole accompaniment. The Lyric Quartet produce a splendid sound, shifting with great versatility from straight-ahead emotionalism, through tango and samba pastiche, to noises which, in one song, reminded me of Madness. This type of backing works best as poker-faced send-up, however, and it can have a clogging effect on some of the punchier lyrics.
The writing and the dramatic development are pretty ragged but Gwen Walford's engaging, simple production makes a virtue of the lack of finish. In very good voice, Tim Hardy is hilarious as the father, giving the character's nostalgia for the 1960s just the right degree of ridiculous soulfulness: "In the Sixties / We stood for something then / We all got stoned and everything shone / We listened to sounds / And people walked down to the river / With nothing on." As his daughter and her boyfriend, DeniseBlack and Conrad Nelson have a fine comic appeal, nowhere more so than when they make what sounds like uncomfortable love ("I'm freezing." "Is that your own?"). The "dreary musical" playing on the telly in the same room shows the pair of them in glamorous evening dress by the edge of a sunset sea, reprising in grandiose spoof-video mode their big duet from earlier. The show is daft from start to finish but with just enough delightful moments to make it seem worthwhile.
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