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Travelin' Through: Broken Toys @CervantesTheatr

Things are a bit different at the Cervantes Theatre when you see Broken Toys. You enter through the upstairs dressing rooms and go down to the theatre. It is a circuitous route, much like the story of Marion. You end up in the same place but have taken a different journey. And like what the old prostitute said. It's not the work but the stairs. And there before you is the theatre, but not entirely as I recall it. It feels like an intimate cabaret venue with tables and a shiny stage. And there we are introduced to Marion. Marion grew up in a small town during the Franco regime. A place where looking a bit different could make you the subject of gossip and a threat to your life. And despite being assigned male at birth and the attempts of family and father figures, she was an outsider in her town.  And so Marion sets off on a journey to the city. And in the shadows, she finds a place to hide. But with guidance from drag performer Dorian Delacroix begins to find her voice. Her journe

Directors, Developers and Swingers: A Chorus of Disapproval

 The revival of A Chorus of Disapproval, Alan Ayckbourn's comedy farce about an amateur light operatic society's production of The Beggar's Opera manages to be an agreeable evening out, although it tends to be more smile out loud than laugh out loud. The cast are terrific but the play lacks the pace and the insanity that are hallmarks of a well written farce. On the other hand, for something silly with wife swapping and unlikely male conquests, you probably can't do that much better on the West End right now...

It opens with a successful opening night of the piece with Guy, the lead who plays Macheath, being shunned by the rest of the cast. The piece then returns to the start of rehearsals and traces the path that leads to the opening night.

As a play within a play, the music and story of The Beggars Opera reflects (or perhaps riffs) on the story of Guy, played by Nigel Harman, who arrives in a small town and just wants to please everyone and get over the death of his wife. It is a bit unfortunate that he is in a town that is famous for land deals, wife swapping and operatic drama. It helps that he is a bit handsome, and in his knitted sweaters and loose jackets he has everyone in the town swooning. Well, I guess it was that sort of town...

Taking top billing in the show is Rob Brydon, who is making his theatrical West End debut as the mad Welsh director of the piece. It is a great role as he gets to sing, insult the other cast members and be completely oblivious to the sexual play going on between Guy and his wife. It is amusing to watch him as an intense fool, and also managing to create a character that distills all that is excruciating about amateur groups... The effort spent behind making a work while dealing with egos, infighting and dull performers.

The rest of the cast do well at balancing their roles as amateur performers and shrewd locals after their pound of flesh. The production also looks smart... But ultimately the tale becomes a bit grim  in the second half as things go a little pear shaped for our Guy... But what could have been a lively comedy ends up being more of a damp squib. Still it is lovely to watch and there is the music from The Beggars Opera. Personally it is not a favourite but most people like that sort of thing... It is on a limited run until January and keep an eye out for good deals at the usual outlets...

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