Fantastic Fresher Fun

26 February 2008

Happily Ever After, Corpus Playroom, 19-23 February, 19:00

Three Stars

Reviewer Annabel Banks

Let’s be clear – apparently disingenuous claims of ineptitude set my alarm bells ringing. It’s a simple toadying tool: debase yourself before a critical audience, flatter, self-efface – and all the time secretly hope to wow them with your natural artistic depth. It’s the equivalent of passing off a salon trip and designer outfit as ‘just throwing something on.’. Here, the oft-repeated claims of ‘a second-rate script by a second-rate author’ were making me uneasy. Was this going to be one more piece of over-reaching amateur theatre? Or did the programme tell the truth – the only aim is to entertain?

Lights up. Let’s see.

Five minutes in my cynicism took the empty seat beside me and we settled down for the show. The script is fine, a nice piece of solid comic writing that merrily steals from anywhere it likes (Little Britain and The Simpsons are owed the biggest debts) with some flashes of real inspiration. The leads are played exceptionally well, Axel Rendahl and Patricia Burns as the Prince and Cinderella provide enough pantomime relationship mis-match to hang the rest of the play on. Marriage, death, magic, leeks – all are shoved in a spin-dryer before being tipped out on the floor and called ‘plot’. And it works. This delightful antithesis of self-regarding student theatre entertained me enormously. The gun-toting fairy godmother, make-up caked ugly sisters, incongruous pissed pirate and the harried director (played to great effect by Daniel Chucher, who is remarkably reminiscent of Richard E Grant in Withnail and I) leap in and out of narrative and character as if such things were not important to a play.

The insistence that there is no meaning at all to the proceeding does not mean that there are no satirical touches. Celebrity marriage, newspaper political affiliations, royalty and its role in a modern society – they creep in, but I don’t believe that they are the point. Here, quite simply, the point is to make us laugh, and director Jamie Pleydell-Bouverie keeps up the mayhem with impetuous style.

The only thing wrong was the lack of audience. With more people the ripples of mirth that ran round the Corpus Playroom could have become the laughter that inspires comic actors on to bigger and better things. At a run-time of well under an hour attending this play wouldn’t put a serious hole in your evening; indeed it would be a nice gap between drinks and dinner. So put your book down, disarm your critical faculties and just enjoy the silliness. It’s on till Saturday 23rd