“The energy that flowed from the musicians was infectious as they recreated the nightlife of the era”
Stepping into the Mercury Theatre to see Ain’t Misbehavin’ was like stepping into the Jazz clubs of Harlem in the 1920s. The smooth tones of the music transported us deep into the life of Fats Waller, the iconic African-American jazz pianist, organist, composer and comedic entertainer. The show, not prescribing to any linear structure or story, explored the musical talents of Waller by embracing a selection of his work including ‘Your Feet’s Too Big’ and ‘The Viper’s Drag.’ The songs were performed by Adrian Hansel, Carly Mercedes-Dyer, Landi Oshinowo, Renée Lamb and Wayne Robinson, who each, with their own impressive array of talents, added a unique flair to every tune. The quality was outstanding, as each performer amazed with their booming voices and effortless dance moves choreographed to perfection by the brilliant Oti Mabuse.
Making his directing debut, Tyrone Huntley proved his creative talents extend to offstage as well as on. He has ensured that every element of the show conveys the period and the true essence and freedom of Jazz.
At first, the absence of a storyline was noticeable and I caught myself thinking that the presence of scripted dialogue could have tied the songs together more efficiently. However, by the second act this thought was disregarded as we journeyed into more slow and sombre numbers.
‘The Viper’s Drag’ was a particularly impressive number, hypnotic as it stirred a silent excitement in the audience. Waller’s words filled the theatre, as Wayne Robinson smoked away, singing about getting high and dancing slickly across the floor. The audience watched as his feet slid across the stage, his body resembling ‘The Viper.’ The song ‘Black and Blue’ delved into the topic of race and importantly touched upon typical white American views towards black identities at the time. The power of the lyrics, “I’m white inside, but that don’t help my case, Cause I can’t hide what is on my face,” created a story and perhaps indicated Huntley’s vision of allowing the music to speak for itself.
It would be criminal not to acknowledge the excellent live band that performed alongside the outstanding cast. The energy that flowed from the musicians was infectious as they recreated the nightlife of the era enhanced by the stunning period set and costume design (takis).
Ain’t Misbehavin’ was hugely entertaining. A beautifully crafted piece of theatre from the Made In Colchester stable reflecting the talents of a bygone era.
“Clarkson’s script lives up to the challenge, hilariously capturing the essence of the blockbuster series”
I must admit that I’m a huge fan of The Crown, and was beyond eager to attend The Kings Head Theatre to watch the new comedy based on the popular series. With season three of The Crown soon approaching, there couldn’t have been a better opportunity for Daniel Clarkson (playwright) and Owen Lewis (director) to present their ambitious production of The Crown Dual. The production promised to condense twenty episodes worth of royal content into a seventy-minute production, cleverly reimagining the story of how Elizabeth Windsor became Queen Elizabeth II. Fortunately, Clarkson’s script lives up to the challenge, hilariously capturing the essence of the blockbuster series by adding a humorous twist to the characters we’ve grown to know so well.
The story centres on Beth Buckingham (played by Rosie Holt), an aspiring actress and avid despiser of Claire Foy, who with the help of Stanley Diamond (Brendan Murphy) her idiotic agent, gets the opportunity to prove her rightful role as Elizabeth in the popular Netflix series. The two actors juggle the characters of the series perfectly, with Stanley playing every character imaginable, including Winston Churchill, Princess Margaret, Prince Philip, Peter Townsend and even the Queen’s favoured corgis. The show should be praised for its comedy value from the start, as the actors hilariously create the opening scene of The Crown. We watch as Beth prances around the stage, dressed in a black costume, twiddling green ribbons and flailing around to the haunting orchestral tune. Stanley interrupts Beth’s performance by holding a ‘skip’ sign, (an option that appears on Netflix) to an eagerly awaiting audience member who complies, therefore cutting Beth’s performance short and sending us all into fits of laughter.
The writing is meticulous in its attention to detail and appreciation of the well-known characters. In particular, Stanley’s portrayal of Winston Churchill was just brilliant. We watched as he amplified the characters mannerisms by laboriously travelling across the stage, dragging repetitively on his cigar and screaming about sticking to tradition and not breaking protocol in their meetings. This same appreciation should be given to both Beth and Stanley for recreating Princess Margaret’s character by reimagining scenes of her writing in her diary with a cigarette and drink in hand. We see Princess Margaret persistently slurping on her drink, declaring through every reading, ‘I’m drunk again.’
The actors really honed in on the series presentation of the Royal family, exaggerating certain characteristics and playing them to perfect comedy value. They persisted to break the fourth wall, calling upon lucky audience members to assist with different scenes from the TV show. There is often a tendency for audience participation to become quite awkward, but luckily that wasn’t the case.
The lighting (Robbie Butler) and sound (James Nicholson) complemented the performance perfectly, as did the simple yet effective costume design (Lee Newby). Although slightly mad, and at times a bit slow between scene transitions, this is a comedy that stands well on its own and will definitely also get you excited for the new series of The Crown.