Who's the Daddy?, King's Head, London

My, aren't you naughty boys!
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The Independent Culture

Who's the Daddy? mockingly dramatises the sleazy affairs in which top names at the said mag were recently embroiled: in particular Johnson's fling with his right-hand woman, Petronella Wyatt, and Kimberly Quinn's entanglement with Blunkett. Johnson's disastrous relationship with Liverpool is mentioned in passing too. It certainly rubs everyone's nose in the dirt one more time.

In practice, however, this comedy is just a fantastical, silly version of events. It's all played out in Johnson's office with oak panels concealing a double bed and cupboard where virtually everyone is trying to bonk simultaneously. This includes the contributor Rod Liddle who (as played by Peter Hamilton Dyer) does nothing but sneak and lech after Tiffany (Michelle Ryan), the mole from The Guardian who's posing as a ludicrously pea-brained, busty secretary. Paul Prescott's lookalike Blunkett, being blind, thinks he's at Quinn's house as Johnson and Wyatt pretend to be her accommodating spouse and nanny.

Meanwhile, the mag's in-house chef needs his visa extended, so he's in the cupboard offering oral pleasures of a non-culinary variety. Claudia Shear's Quinn eventually produces twin sprogs with moppy wigs, just like the one sported by Tim Hudson's blustering Johnson, and Blunkett bursts in wearing a Spiderman outfit, brandishing a "Fathers For Justice" banner.

For all the pre-show column inches, Blunkett's reported censorship drive appears to have been shortlived and Johnson has seemingly taken his old chums' ragging with a shrug. At least, he hasn't sacked them yet. Actually, the most shocking thing about Who's the Daddy? is just how lousy it is, theatrically speaking. The double entendres (even with additional gags by Jeremy Lloyd of Are You Being Served?) are woefully feeble. Rod Liddle, for example, assures us he doesn't have a little rod. Worse, the plot is a shambles. Tiffany, having got her scoop, suddenly lets everyone off the hook without motivation. Wyatt is also bemusing, guessing that Tiffany is undercover near the start then senselessly exclaiming towards the close: "So that's your game: trying to get a story!" Surely, no Spectator journalist can be that dumb? Then again...

To give them their due, Sara Crowe's Sloaney Wyatt and Shear's Quinn (though basically reprising her Mae West impersonation) can be amusingly monstrous as snappy, imperious, power-craving social climbers. This is, in fact, Ben Jonson's dark terrain revisited as much as Boris Johnson's. Nonetheless, Tamara Harvey's directing lacks polish and pacing. Apart from Christopher Woods' snug set, the whole production has the air of being slung together, with immediate topicality as an excuse. You get the feeling that nobody cares much, nothing is really at stake, the shoddy script is almost as shameless as the characters and, at root, this is a decadent, attention-grabbing ruse which will pump up Young's minor celebrity status. Still, the nasty taste this leaves in your mouth may have a lingering impact that effects some good in the long run.

k.bassett@independent.co.uk

To 28 August. 020 7226 8561

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