Harry Enfield Comedy Is All Fizzle And No Razzle Dazzle

Once In A Lifetime, The Young Vic ★★☆☆☆

By Chris Bridges Last edited 16 months ago

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Harry Enfield Comedy Is All Fizzle And No Razzle Dazzle Once In A Lifetime, The Young Vic 2
John Marquez (George Lewis) in Once in a Lifetime at the Young Vic © Johan Persson

The words 'classic’, 'Broadway' and 'comedy' when combined are enough to make British audiences quiver with dread — and justifiably in the case of The Young Vic's Christmas offering.

Kaufman and Hart's 1930 comedy has some fun moments and occasional laughs but hasn't stood the test of time. It delivers what you'd expect: two dimensional characters and limp jokes. And sadly, Richard Jones's direction fails to add any much needed oomph. Watching this at the theatre is like watching a Sunday afternoon black and white film without the welcome relief of the odd advert break.

Jerry and May and their vacuous friend George, foreseeing the demise of Vaudeville, flee to California to be present at the advent of talking pictures. As expected, 'madcap' and 'screwball' fun ensues. Only the fun is less frenetic and more sedated. It's Temazepam rather than turbulence. On the plus side, the format is easy viewing and you can sit back, relax and come away feeling unchallenged, if not enervated. Maybe a pre-show drink might help.

Harry Enfield makes his first London stage appearance as Glogauer, a Hollywood producer. It's a grim turn. He pulls the face he often does (like he's got a mouth full of marbles) and does that walk he often does (think toddler with a full nappy).

Actor/comedian Kevin Bishop is woefully underused as Jerry, a character who has almost no comedy lines. Better served are Claudie Blakly as the wry and cynical May, and Amanda Lawrence as the amnesiac secretary who lurches around manically like a distant ancestor of Mrs Doyle in Father Ted.

Harry Enfield (Glogauer) in Once in a Lifetime at the Young Vic © Johan Persson

The set revolves and cleverly switches from hotel room to train carriage to film studio. Hyemi Shin's design is a silvery and sumptuous sight to behold and is complemented by Nicky Gillibrand's lavish costumes. There's a touch of deco elegance with shades of Erte and a sequin budget that must have been astronomical. The shoes and frocks alone are almost worth the ticket price if that's your thing.

L to R: Kevin Bishop (Jerry Hyland), Claudie Blakley (May Daniels), Lizzy Connolly (Susan Walker) and Buffy Davis (Mrs. Walker) in Once in a Lifetime at the Young Vic © Johan Persson

Like a worn down 1930s flapper, it's all razzle-dazzle but no fizzle. The problem here is the pace. It lacks the tight wit of Noel Coward or Terence Rattigan and the action feels like it’s been cranked down a notch. The whole thing, although pretty and inoffensive, just isn't manic enough and feels like there's wasted potential.

Once in a Lifetime continues at The Young Vic until 14 January 2017. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.

Last Updated 13 December 2016