Archive for December 7th, 2014

Review – Mrs Hudson’s Christmas Corker – Spymonkey at Wilton’s Music Hall

December 7, 2014

For all that I love to go to the theater, it’s rare that I get invitations to go with other people, especially fully fledged “Here’s a particular show that I want to see and a date and everything” kind of stuff – unless it’s one of my Twitter friends with a spare to something. So when a friend of mine who lives out of town proposed a Saturday trip to the lovely Wilton’s Music hall to see a show by Spymonkey – well, I said yes without even looking up the details. I’d seen their Hound of the Baskervilles at the Duchess Theater in the distant past (apparently before I started this blog) and enjoyed it enough for it to burn its way into my mind for seven long years, waiting for this very moment to pipe up and say, “Oh yes, Spymonkey! They’re kind of funny, aren’t they! Let’s do it.” And so we did.

Now, Wilton’s is a bit of a stretch to get to but an utterly charming venue with a nice bar and great vibe once you get there. And this show, with a quirky three piece band and four very silly actors, seems to be well suited to the venue (and the occasionally shit sight lines don’t seem to be much of an issue). The show is set in Victorian times, in the Sherlock Holmes period – why, by gum, the Mrs Hudson of the title is actually Sherlock Holmes’ landlady – so the costuming and occasional music hall bits seemed to fit the atmosphere very well. The gag is that we are going to watch Sherlock Holmes solve some mysteries, sometimes with Watson, sometimes without, and occasionally with the assistance of random other people who are clearly one of the same four actors wearing a different costume. The actors are all having a good time and the audience was occasionally roaring with laugher – they were well up for the evening.

I, however, found myself a bit left behind by the whole thing. I didn’t get the second joke (a bit with Karl Marx singing something in German apparently from a 70s British TV show – passed right over my head), I was actually a bit upset when Watson was moping about Holmes being abusive to him, and the pattersong was done too quick for me to follow along. However, by the time the final mystery appeared – just how does a virgin get pregnant – I was having enough of a good time allow for a substantial suspension of disbelief as Holmes and crew made their way back 2000 years in time. I loved the arguments between God and the angel Gabriel, and was completely amused by Gabriel’s lascivious attraction to Mary, who had apparently gone without much physical attention in her life and seemed like she was likely to have none in the future – touched by an angel indeed! When God really chewed out Gabriel for behaving inappropriately, my sympathy was entirely with Gabriel, who at least recognized that Mary has a right to have pleasure no matter how much she was going to go down in history as a baby making machine. Go Mary! Go Gabriel! And go Spymonkey for making the most blasphemous play I’ve ever seen. Made me proud to be in a country where people weren’t walking around going, “HARRUMPH I’ve just been insulted” or, er, protesting or, um, setting the building on fire. So while the rest of the evening was a bit limp, the show ended like a rocket, BANG BANG mystery solved! It gave a whole new twist to the turn “getting into the Christmas spirit.”

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, December 6, 2014. It continues through December 31st.)

Mini-review – Hope – Royal Court

December 7, 2014

After three nights of pantos, I was certainly ready for some straight theater, and Hope at the Royal Court seemed promising. A “a funny and scathing” “urgent” political play sounded like just the thing for me, since I feel really angry about what’s been going on in the UK since the ConDem coalition got in and I think it’s exactly the kind of topic that is well handled by playwrights – fast to get out the satire while the burn is still there.

The plot is about a group of councilors in a smallish town in the Labour part of England who are having to make decisions about where to make cuts in order to manage their budget under the much reduced financial situation they’ve been handed by Westminster. Now, as an American, I was finding a lot of the background information very confusing. I didn’t get the feeling these people actually were elected locally – they seemed to be picked by their party – and they seemed to depend solely on money derived from the central government to cover their expenses. They did point out that they could raise some taxes, but that there was a (Westminster generated?) law that tax rises over 1.9% had to go to “the people” for approval. The near complete reliance on external money and the total non-concern with re-electability was a change in world view I had to accept; but an environment in which a local government was controlled by the opinion of the central government about how they spent their money blew me away – tabloid press hysteria was winning the day and being so swayed by social media was hard to conceive. Nobody in Arizona gives a second thought to DC complaining about how Arizona makes their budget; and DC would never tell Arizona to go back on a budget they’d made. Setting voting districts, maybe: but not spending money.

But I do understand all too well that the current government has managed to dance away from taking responsibility for cuts by letting “local” governments figure out their own budgets and then take the heat. But where, I ask, is the rage about the people who decided to cut the money in the first place? How did it become the different people who might lose money fighting against each other? Watching the little people running around on stage (for little they were from my perch in the balcony), the whole thing just seemed tragic and depressing. What is wrong with people? How has saving the banking industry and making it easy for international corporations to move their profits to their shareholders instead of spending it in the country where it was earned become the status quo? Why aren’t people more outraged? If only Hope had really been a comedy instead of being a play with some funny bits (best scene: schoolboy Jake – Tommy Knight – trying to be ultra suave with councillor Julie – Sarah Duncan Brewster – and getting called out for staring at her chest) and a few interesting characters. It sucked all of the hope out of me and left me pretty down. Ah well, back to bread and circuses tomorrow

(This review is for a performance that took place on December 4, 2014. It continues through January 10, 2015.)