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Bit parts: Garry Starr Performs Everything @swkplay

Garry Starr Performs Everything is a bare-bones (and bare buttocks) tribute to the theatre. Theatre may be in trouble, and audiences are down, but Garry Starr aims to save the theatre and bring back to the masses every style of theatre possible. As long as each style involves wearing a transparent white leotard or a skimpy thong. And tassels. It's part comedy, part physical comedy and part perv at Gary's physical prowess. The sentiment "if you've got it, flaunt it" applies here. So here we are with a show that has been around for some years and is having its first proper London run at the Southwark Playhouse (Borough) through Christmas. The premise is that Garry Starr (played by Damien Warren-Smith) has left the Royal Shakespeare Company over artistic differences. He is now on a mission to save the theatre from misrepresentation and worthy interpretations by doing things such as a two-minute Hamlet, recreating scenes from a Pinter play using unsuspecting audience

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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