#Tweetingit – 5* Step back in time with the perfect tonic (and a large glass of gin or three) to a hard day in 2000’s Britain.
Each and every time I told people what I was going to see at the theatre, I got a confused expression; a 1940s “live recording” of a radio show?
I am not sure why, but I had none of the same confusion, concerns or reservations. Maybe that had something to do with the knowledge that I was also going to the Gin Chronicles – gin tasting and a show, what more can you want – or perhaps it’s because I have plunged myself into the 1920s-40s thing recently, seen several productions set in those eras and really enjoyed plunging myself into the vintage era. Either way, my excitement definitely increased when entering the venue.
Having been handed my first gin and tonic of the evening, looking around St Bart’s Brewery, it was clear to see that we has been instantly transported into the 1940s. The grand looking room was kitted out with large round tables, set out like a theatre gala, and a stage with four old fashioned microphones alongside a table filled with an array of seemingly unlinked items – a small door, a cabbage, some water and bells among others. We chose the balcony area and sat at a small table adorned with a host of treats; two large buckets – one filled with ice, one with a variety of tonics – 6 glasses which I excitedly assumed would soon be filled with gin, and some olives and nuts. What could possibly make an evening better?
Well, let me tell you; the show itself was great as were the gins we tasted! It begins with a history of gin from the beginning to the present day – 1947, followed by the tasting itself, all presented by our rather Chumley -Warneresque host. We were served up three fine gins – Edinburgh, Burleighs and Sacred, alongside suggested accompaniments – a rose lemonade, herby tonic and elderflower tonic, complete with 1940s radio jingles.
After this, the audience are introduced to the cast as well at their role for the evening, since it is a live recording after all. We are encouraged to clap, cheer, sigh and gasp when the relevant sign is held up – I got so into this that I almost choked on a nut after an unexpected “gasp”.
The actors are extremely talented, performing hilarious scenes, playing a multitude of characters in many different voices and accents. With a hint of slapstick and a never ending amount of energy, the audience can’t help but guffaw along – no signs for laughter were required!
The plot follows the rather dim-witted John Jobling (Robert Blackwood), who decides to become a detective when gin tycoon, Cornelius Juniper goes missing. He has a cunning plan to boost his chances of success by employing the resourceful housekeeper Doris Golightly to be the brains of the operation . From here we meet a whole host of characters, whom they hope will be able to help solve the mystery.
The acting from all four of the speaking cast was faultless throughout, performing hilarious scenes, no stumbles, mistakes or mishaps appeared to occur, which is pretty impressive considering the numerous characters portrayed. With a hint of slapstick and a never ending amount of energy, the audience can’t help but guffaw along – no signs for laughter were required!
I shall not single out any of the speaking actors here and will just say they are all incredibly talented, however Luke Lamont deserves a special mention. The foley performer kept my attention for much of the evening, as he used an astonishing number of household items (all available in the 40s) to create the sound effects for the show; watching a man try to choke down a raw savoy cabbage and seeing him scramble for the next item to use, was very funny. Creative doesn’t cover it! (I wonder whether the case ever throw him a curve ball resulting in some sudden improvisation…Luke, I am sorry if they don’t and I have just given them an idea)
After the show I had a chat with the cast and the amazing foley artist when the discussion turned to what the flappiest of vegetable is? Have you ever considered it? No me either. But it turns out that sound effects people do. It turns out it’s a leek; something solid enough to thwack without breaking but soft enough to get some momentum behind it. I am not going to explain why this came up as it would spoil an extremely funny moment of the show. I suggest you make your way to Edinburg Festival to see for yourself or pray that they get back to London to perform again soon after!
The botanicals in this production are perfect; it is a fantastic balance of true British wit, Python-esque slapstick with just a hint of coriander and lime! If only it really were a radio show too! Oh and did I mention, there was gin?!
Written by: Robert Blackwood and Nick Cowell
Actors: Phoebe Higson, Robert Blackwood, Nick Cowell, Helen Foster, Luke Lamont and Ben Owara.
Gin Courtesy of Edinburgh Gin, Sacred Gin and Burleighs Gin
Tonic by Fentimans
My favourite – They were all great but Sacred gin with Herbal Tonic won it for me! ( followed equally by the other two with elderflower tonic)