THE HANGOVER II
BRUISED, bloodied, blacked-out and stood high above a sweltering Bangkok, it’s the morning after the night before. Again. Following their 2009 antics in Vegas, the dysfunctional “Wolfpack” – Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis – is back. Three manboys, their sensible mate, and one wedding in Thailand. What could possibly go wrong?
The storyline seems to have been channelled from the mind of a sweaty teenage boy who’s just nailed a crate of Panda Pops and six bags of Tangfastics. Car chases, speedboats, Russian thugs, guns, a CIA sting, strippers, mountains of cocaine, a handful of ladyboys and a crazy monk: it’s all there.
And it doesn’t make a lick of sense, of course, which is unfortunate, but shards of brilliance do pierce their way through the muddy, scattergun plot. For instance, Mr Chow: the strutting, N-bomb dropping, uber-camp international criminal who’s just procured a monkey sporting denim Rolling Stones waistcoat and combat trousers. This silver-screen simian chain-smokes, peddles blow and takes a bullet to the sternum. Inevitably he’s adopted by the Wolfpack and, with Chow, steals the entire show.
In short: wonky plot with some great lines. Do they get to the altar on time? Of course. Is it worth it? You make up your own mind. I’m not your mother!
ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS
So monumentally funny is the National’s new show, with a performance of the most delicious and colossal buffoonery by James Corden at its centre, that one worries whether any fragile audience members might expire from laughing during its run. It’s a farce in the best British traditions of end-of-the-pier reviews, Carry On, Fawlty Towers and Morcambe & Wise, though it’s actually a reworking of a classic comedy by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni.
Instead of Goldoni’s 18th century Venice we have Brighton in the Sixties, where Corden’s tubby likely lad Francis Henshall finds himself working as assistant for two different guvnors – one a London gangster, one a posh cad on the run from the police. Neither knows of the other’s existence, and Francis needs to keep it that way. In the balance, with a cast of characters including a pretentious actor, a nonsense-talking lawyer, a girl disguised as her dead twin brother, an on-stage skiffle band and a Caribbean crim with fond memories of Parkhurst, are two weddings,
If it sounds rather lightweight for the National, it isn’t. The kaleidoscopic inventiveness of writer Richard Bean’s gaggery, the ingenious blending of the genre tropes of Goldoni’s commedia dell’arte with the best traditions of British slapstick, and the energy and artistry of the cast, make this show an absolute triumph.
George Bernard Shaw’s most famous play, in which Henry Higgins educates flower girl Eliza Doolittle in the ways of lady-like speech (on which the musical My Fair Lady is based), receives a peculiar treatment in Philip Prowse’s production.
Kara Tointon – of Eastenders and Strictly Come Dancing fame – is Eliza, mangling her cockney accent like Dick van Dyke in the first half, more affecting once tutored to well-mannered gracefulness in the second. Rupert Everett is glowering, charismatic and fluently witty as Higgins, but never vulnerable enough – a brutish egotist, but nothing more interesting.
It’s a stuttering show that never gets up a head of steam, especially in its leaden opening acts. Diana Rigg as Higgins’ mother and Peter Eyre as his mucker Colonel Pickering bring some lightness, much needed amid the show’s strangely gloomy lighting and dull set. To an extent, Bernard Shaw’s sparkling dialogue would be worth hearing even if Stephen Hawking were delivering it, but this is not a production for the ages.