Critics decline to sing Karaoke's praises

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The Independent Online
Dennis Potter's last play, Karaoke, had been hailed as "the television drama event of the decade" - but reviewers are not raving yet.

The play, written together with Cold Lazarus while Potter was dying, has been long awaited by the critics. But after Karaoke was broadcast last night finding a verdict amid the flood of scatological description in today's papers is not easy.

The Guardian's review, like the play itself, opens with a "foul whiff", quoting the doctor: "Mr Feeld, I am now going to insert this soft tube into your rectum." Tony Purnell of the Daily Mirror says the best reason for tuning in next week is a scene where a mother hides an armpit hair in her son's egg-on-toast.

Only Sean Day-Lewis of the Daily Telegraph manages to negotiate a sweet- smelling Karaoke review. "What matters . . . is a universal insight to the way writers think and feel," he says. He is also alone among reviewers in his high praise for Karaoke: "It does not displace the still richer Singing Detective . . . as the writer's masterpiece, but is unarguably his strongest drama since then."

Mr Day-Lewis is also impressed by Albert Finney as Daniel Feeld, who he says is "towering" over the rest of the cast. Matthew Bond of the Times agrees, finding Finney "magnificent" and "reminiscent of Sir Kingsley Amis".

The Guardian, however, finds Finney's performance "risibly bombastic". Finney's performance is effectively a karaoke performance in itself.

Mr Purnell was pleased to see Potter still "sticking up two fingers" to those offended by the playwright's strong language. "Trust Dennis Potter to make sure his last words included plenty with four letters," he writes. "The awkward cuss who gave Mary Whitehouse more nightmares than anyone else in his time was never one to worry about watchdogs."

The Times, meanwhile, finds "Potterland has never been pottier."

Tom Sutcliffe's opinion,

Section Two, page 32