Ducktastic

The Stage, 21 October 2005
By Chris Bartlett

When The Right Size’s Sean Foley and Hamish McColl decided to create a show inspired by a double act of an earlier age, something seismic happened in the comedy firmament. The planets aligned and the resulting show, loose Morecambe and Wise tribute The Play What I Wrote, propelled the pair from a modest but dedicated following to being courted by the showbusiness elite.

That West End hit perfectly married their already established idiosyncratic style to Eric and Ernie’s evergreen, Eddie Braben-penned comedic landscape. The challenge now would be to beat it. Sensibly, however, Foley and McColl don’t appear to be trying to, opting instead to revisit the kind of showbiz nonentities that cemented their comedy partnership in 1994’s Stop Calling Me Vernon, albeit on a grander scale.

McColl plays Christophe Sassoon, a fading stage magician who hopes his latest West End spectacular, assisted by Foley’s eager punter Roy, will restore him to the giddy heights of the Las Vegas lunchtime theatre circuit. That already slight premise is stretched microbe thin by the generous running time. And the joke that, in the place of Siegfried and Roy-style tigers, Sassoon has a duck, wears even thinner, as does the show’s central gimmick of using real, live trained fowl, the use of which amount to little more than having them race, pell-mell across the stage.

But Foley and McColl’s winning mesh of Carry On clunkers to post-modern self-reference, spryly directed by Kenneth Branagh and well-served by their game supporting cast, manages to paper over the gaps between the lame songs and over-used feats of stage trickery to convince you that they can just about hold their own in the West End without the hook of two much-missed comedy legends.


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