In Tony Craven's risibly lousy West End production, the nameless captive (played by Robert Fardell) is stuck in what could be a 1970's public toilet. The walls are covered in large dirty grey tiles - possibly polystyrene, judging by the texture. There's also a pile of faux antique furniture, ludicrously sharing space with the amplifiers, downstage right. Throughout, the dull Fardell wears a helmet resembling a huge bobbly wart. It covers his entire face, possibly saving him the embarrassment of recognition after the show, but unfortunately we can still hear him bursting into inane song and - when speaking - leaving interminable pauses between every clause.
The dialogue (by Colin Scott and Melinda Walker) and the numbers (by John Robinson) are full of fantastically inept, almost surreal non-sequiturs, and the storyline has shrunk to nothing but a love-triangle with the jailer and a passing gypsy. Mark McKerracher, as the former, has a big burly voice but an inexplicable US accent, and Sheila Ferguson (of The Three Degrees) can't act to save her life as the seductive lady. You might be forgiven for assuming the synthetic orchestra was prerecorded, karaoke-style, if it wasn't for the wrong notes. This prison has no visible slop-bucket. Artistically speaking, the proscenium arch is just serving as one vast sewer.
Things can only improve when Nica Burns' new production company, Nimax, takes over the Duchess in October.
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