Brockley Jack Studio Theatre – 6 – 9 October 2021
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss created Six while they were students, and their musical has become a worldwide hit. Gustav Holst and Fritz B Hart’s comic operetta never reached those heights, destined to become one of those works that is “rediscovered” as a lesser early piece. It definitely has the feel of a student composition – the Victorian equivalent of a Monty Pythonesque riff on Gilbert and Sullivan. There are hints of the great things to come in Holst’s music, and librettist Hart has some sly and sharp lines in between some groan-inducing rhymes.
The King (Ross Hobson) is miserable – he is sick of Roly Poly for pudding every day, but the Queen (Valeria Perboni) insists on him eating it. Adding to his misery, their sentry (Simon Mulligan) has the newest verses from the dreadful poet Buffy and reads them to his unwilling audience. When the Prime Minister (John Stivey) recovers from a long illness and announces that he has had an idea it is a shock to the entire palace. He suggests that, as the current situation in the country is grim, the men and women should swap roles. This leads to comic scenes of servant Mona (Elena Hogg) trying to handle a rifle without shooting herself, and sweet revenge for the King.
It’s a fairly static show, with director Paula Chitty keeping the running time under an hour and just a couple of instrumental “dance” breaks. This means the cast must convey the lunacy with facial and hand gestures rather than big physical comedy, and most do a fine job. Valeria Perboni is the star of the show, with a gorgeous voice and her Queen obviously wearing the trousers under a voluminous crinoline. Ross Hobson is funny as the milksop King who couldn’t run a bath alone. There are lots of giggles to be had from modern parallels with the duplicitous, self-serving PM having a ridiculous idea and backtracking when things go wrong. Laurie O’Brien and Patrick Vincent perform the music on stage and do a fine job, with the company’s voices blending nicely.
The Idea is obviously the work of two not yet fully developed musical talents, but Irrational Theatre’s production this sweet and silly show is well worth a look.