The Guardian, 20 October 2005

By Michael Billington

"It's not exactly Ibsen," said a camp gent in the interval of the Right Size's latest comic extravaganza. But even if it's not 'The Wild Duck', it is also no tame turkey: more a hilarious send-up of the tacky conventions of showbiz and the delusions of illusion in which the much-advertised duck, Daphne, thankfully has only a minor waddle-on role.

The big question was how the Right Size would follow up their earlier Morecambe and Wise hit, 'The Play What I Wrote'.

The short answer is by doing something roughly similar: this time their inspiration is the Las Vegas animal-magic act of Siegfried and Roy. Saucer-eyed Hamish McColl plays a manic illusionist who ill-advisedly plucks an aspidistra-bearing customer from the front stalls with a cry of: "Excuse me, we can't have a plant in the audience."

The stooge turns out be a Portsmouth petshop owner lankily embodied by Sean Foley. And what follows is a reality-bending, Pirandellian piss-take in which Foley, once on stage, becomes an ever more enthusiastic part of the act.

But the particular joy of this show is that it mixes slapstick, innuendo and song with a simultaneous celebration and exposure of stage trickery.

Foley is fired from a cannon and instantly pops up in a circle box. A female usher is ingeniously bisected and immediately goes to pieces.

The usher's mum disappears down a dressing room tabletop like the rabbit in Alice vanishing down a hole. The brilliance of Simon Drake's tricks is that they reveal the fakery of stage magic while also making you gasp.

Admittedly the structure is ramshackle and the satire on creation myths, with the talking duck as a surrogate god, seems superfluous.

But the sight of McColl as a hairy-legged vamp coyly crossing and uncrossing his legs in front of a man who announces he's in fertiliser ("O, you can't have children?" is the response) had me in stitches.

And the faint aroma of filth hovers pungently in the air as Foley tells his adored usher: "I can use my magic fingers to make you happy."

Kenneth Branagh, as director, just about keeps the anarchy under control, and Liz Crowther and Clive Hayward pop up to good effect as the usher's outraged parents. But what I like most about the show is its palpable and extravagant delight in theatre as a shop-soiled box of tricks and a jerry-built house of illusions.

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