Waterloo East Theatre
Reviewed – 12th January 2018
“an arrogant, thoroughly dated and unfunny mess … send in the rescue team”
A crisis is unfolding. A team must be dispatched to deal with it. This is the basis for countless World War Two action films, and the starting point for Doodle – The Musical! at the Waterloo East Theatre. With book and lyrics from Jonathan Kydd, whose father Sam starred in several of these films, and music from Andy Street, an American Idol mentee, the signs would appear promising. The show aspires to present a loving pastiche, a comedy-musical aiming for a lightning quick romp. Instead, it is unfortunate that the age of the inspiration floods into the comedy and misses the target entirely. A crisis is unfolding …
It is 1940. The inventor of the bouncing bomb, Barnes Wallis, is kidnapped by the Germans to make a war-winning device. As he is regarded as someone who only has the ability to make things bounce, the worst of the worst are assembled to rescue him and find out what Gerry is up to. This includes, among others, the actor Errol Flynn, David Niven and Weaver, a woman who is constantly ignored but will eventually come good, as per the patronising character type that writers believe is a ‘strong empowering woman’.
With such a rich vein of material from which to use, Kydd’s writing truly labours to find the funny, and tries to grab at all it can. We jump across scientists in love with their robots, a spy who is amusing because the actor is naked, or something, and a bizarre repeating line of humour in which anything linked to homosexuality is apparently hilarious! I want to dispel the idea that this is political correctness gone mad; it’s just simply not funny. The songs do not add much to help matters. Led in by awkward segues, they are overlong and rely often on constant repetition in place of any wit or memorable hooks.
The production from Jonathan Moore has none of the visual razzmatazz that might release a piece of this kind. Transitions are awkward, dull and clunky while the bare design from Baska Wesolowska places the emphasis on the comedy, which in this case does not act as a positive. This mundanity carries in to the choreography, uninventive and stilted. I particularly sympathise for dancers Kate Haughton and Viva Foster, whose only instruction appears to be that they vaguely float around in skimpy outfits during songs.
For the cast, there are moments where you feel that with given stronger material they could have promise. Sooz Henshaw does what she can as Weaver, lending her at least some personality. As Tweed, Paul Ryan brings a suitable stiff upper lip. But it is too late to save anything from the evening. All are stuck within an arrogant, thoroughly dated and unfunny mess. Send in the rescue team.
Reviewed by Callum McCartney
Waterloo East Theatre until 28th January