(Seen at the preview performance on 11th September 2013).
“Dead in Dagenham.”
Actually, the first half showed a few signs of life. Lee Evans’s Norman
Wisdom-like physical comedy, and some decent comedic lines and stories managed
to keep the too-slow acting pace from becoming too much of an issue. Simon
Higlett’s impressive Essex mansion set also delighted as did (frankly, for this
monkey at least) Keeley Hawes’s dress sense.
Sadly, from a situation fairly decently set up in the first half, the second
became almost 50 excruciatingly dull and pointless minutes. A few moments of fun
with Mr Evans again – his “unique” dancing almost made it worth staying for, but
only almost – plus in the final moments Mr Evans failing brilliantly to cover a
mis-timed gory cue – were the only redeeming features.
Of the other actors, Sheila Hancock copes just fine with creating a credible
Essex matriarch, again helping to keep this ship afloat. Karl Johnson (Rocco)
provides a nice cameo as the friendly neighbourhood hit-man too, but (literally)
goes to sleep for much of act two, thus ending his character development.
Keeley Hawes is all too believable as the wife of a dim Essex boy, as wooden as
her tan tone should have her, while Montserrat Lombard seemed a little
uncomfortable with her brief appearance as a brief – though to be fair the
script couldn’t help her.
As a lesson in comedy writing, it was interesting to note that when the strong
language (we are talking the “C” word, liberally) let up, the laughter flowed,
then was killed as stone dead as one of Rocco’s victims the moment it emerged
Programme notes have it that this play was inspired by the author happening to
watch a TV game-show and wondering where the dim contestant revelling in his
ignorance came from. The monkey alas suggests that the game show the author must
have been watching was “Pointless”...