a mischievous rebuff at the censorship grim reaper

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The cheerfully unbalanced tone is set by Ria Jones, a musical devotee who is making her “direct” debut. She busies herself with a vacuum cleaner in the chatty charlady character of Mrs. Swabb (an ancestor of Mrs. Overall from Acorn Antiques?) And almost walks away with the show. “I represent your working classes,” she draws a Welsh drawl, surveying the drums – with growing disappointment – the front rows for others of her type.

She’s here to feature a stereotypical family, like in a hypothetical game show: The Wicksteeds – Arthur, a general practitioner practicing in Hove by the sea, worried about being stranded at 53 and fishing for a younger woman; his neglected wife Muriel, who yearns for a former flame, now a medical top dog; their hypochondriac son Dennis; and Arthur’s “single” sister, Constance, who mailed fakes.

Spot the gleeful groping of bad breasts when Shanks, the salesman in question – played by Andrew Sachs in the original production – falls in circles. The intrigue complications would not be tiresome to relay, but they are certainly tortuous; think Joe Orton-on-sea with Donald McGill’s lashes. If the writing was less crisp or served well, the whole could crumble under its own dramatic lack of weight. But it’s almost a laughing matter, and performed to perfection in all areas.

Kirsty Besterman brings dignified certainty to cleavage-obsessed Constance, Matthew Cottle has fun as a red-haired and belatedly horny clergyman called Throbbing, and Jasper Britton combines glorious unmoved sides with Chekhovian depth as a GP, aspiring doctor. flesh but shrinking from its rot. “The one whose desire lasts, lasts longest” is his final prescription, accompanied by a dance, an idea launched by the creator of the role, Alec Guinness.

At the time, stage censorship had just been abolished, and it’s being touted as “a dirty farce of a less enlightened age.” It’s a bold choice for Christmas. With his perverse side, his flippancy about bodies and his running gag about suicide, it’s brave for today, period. The censorship reaper has returned. That says boo at that.


Until February 27. Tickets: 020 7378 1713; usinechocolate.com


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