Daphne, Tommy, the Colonel and Phil

Union Theatre

Daphne Tommy the Colonel and Phil

Daphne, Tommy, the Colonel and Phil

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd July 2019


“The pacing is drudgingly slow, and the cast seem unsure about what’s supposed to be happening next”


I’m loathed to give anything one star, but unfortunately, this new comedy, written and directed by Edwin Ashcroft, is a bit of a mess. On the plus side, it straddles the “It’s So Bad It’s Good” boundary enough to make the evening itself fairly enjoyable – but for all the wrong reasons.

Tommy (David Henry) has been married to Daphne (Clifford Hume) for nearing 66 years. To his mild surprise, Daphne turns out to be none other than the titular Colonel, who narrowly escaped being assassinated in 1950s Korea. As Daphne reveals her secret and leaves, Tommy’s life becomes in danger. Enter Tesco delivery boy cum Korean assassin Phil (Edwin Ashcroft) who’s come to take care of the fallout.

Where to start? The script is littered with horrid jokes that leave a bad taste in the mouth and a confused look on the face. It’s like the worst kind of “Carry On…” film. Talking about trying to dismiss some out of work American Navy Seals, Tommy announces “it’s difficult to get rid of discharged seamen”. Phil’s attempts to bond with Tommy mean we hear lines along the lines of: “My wife died thirty seconds after I came out to her as gay”. Korea seems to be brought up just so Ashcroft can throw in some jokes about eating dogs. If that’s your bag, go for it. For me, I was left baffled.

It doesn’t help that the characters seem to be vessels for information (and “jokes”) rather than anything else. The pacing is drudgingly slow, and the cast seem unsure about what’s supposed to be happening next. This (at least) is a problem that will resolve itself as the run continues. It felt like Hume and Ashcroft were spending more time prompting Henry than saying their own lines. There are some yawningly long transitions that could be sped up. Pace is vital in comedy, and this had some excruciating awkward silences.

Henry Clarke’s lighting design is nicely effective but could be used to add more punch to scene-endings. Hume redeems proceedings with energy and liveliness, but even he is not enough to save this dire production. Convoluted, confusing, under-rehearsed, unfunny, and, at times, actually a bit offensive, this play needs a lot of re-drafting if it’s going to win over London audiences.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Digby St. John

We had some feedback about this review from the show’s writer and director Edwin Ashcroft:
Many thanks for making it along on Press Night to Daphne, Tommy, the Colonel and Phil at the Union Theatre, and for your review. We really appreciate it! Quite rightly, your review was quite devastating, and we fully expected that – as you may have detected, we were encountering some profound issues with various aspects of the production on the first night that were fatally undermining the strength of the show. Since then, we have cancelled a couple of shows and recast one of the parts. We are now receiving excellent feedback on the show. I don’t think what you saw, and the – very well-written – review that you produced, are accurate reflections of the show in its current state. Your piece is really a reflection of a collection of freak circumstances.


Daphne, Tommy, the Colonel and Phil

Union Theatre until 3rd August


Previously reviewed at this venue:
H.R.Haitch | ★★★★ | May 2018
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018
Striking 12 | ★★★★ | December 2018
An Enemy of the People | ★★ | January 2019
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | February 2019
Othello | ★★★★ | March 2019
Elegies For Angels, Punks And Raging Queens | ★★★ | May 2019


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