Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Review Monster Raving Loony

Monster Raving Loony
by James Graham

National Lampoon

We at TLT Towers would like thank everyone who has urged us to stand for office in the service of their country. But having seen the trials and tribulations of David Edward Sutch, (1940-1999) better known as Screamng Lord Sutch, and the Monster Raving Loony Party, in Mr James Graham's latest play, not to mention the cost of a deposit, they regretfully have to withdraw their candidature.

Milord's rise to fame and no office began, according to this play, in Harrow Social Club, Harrow being a suburb in North London as lead vocals in band The Savages, a musical ensemble (aka a rock group) in which all the multi-talented actors in this entertainment partake.

Monster Raving Loony is a gallop through the life of  Lord Sutch (plsyed by leopard-skin-jacketed Samuel James). The "Lord", we are told, was adopted by deed poll. Although Lord Sutch tells us he stood "in queue at the town hall" which makes us suspicious that it may just possibly be a irreverent comment on  Her Majesty's honours' system.

We do feel obliged to register our interest, lest we appear compromised, in this show. On our seat we found a gift left by the management consisting of 1) A conical party hat (but which party was never elucidated) 2) A bingo card (as we didn't win we assume it wasn't fixed) 3) A raffle ticket (ditto) 4) A Groucho Marx false nose and glasses.

Yes, there is a certain amount of gentle audience participation including a sing-along and a session of bingo. But being a scrupulously honest, impartial, recycling-minded reviewer, we left our party bag for the next xvoterx punter.

David (somehow his egalitarian stance prohibits the use of more formal monikers) was part of a moderately succssful "zany" (according to Wikipedia) group amd we in the audience were ably tutored by The Musician (Tom Attwood) on how to gain the skills to form our own pop group..

But then a quick rewind to the Brave New World  of post-(Second World) War Britain and the election of Labour Prime Minister Clement Atlee promising to implement policies emerging from the Beveridge Report.

If you are under 35, (please, please, please let us have readers of this blog who are under 35!) you may already be somewhat lost by these references. 

The play's use also of the tropes of comedy acts, radio and TV sitcoms from 1940s onwards may also be of most interest to those who are either of a certain age or the sort who frequent the forums of the British Comedy Guidebringing forth a cosy hot water bottle of recognition.

But, as far as we could see, the details of  and conclusions about David Sutch's life (brought up in Harrow,  a spell as a window cleaner, always lived with his mother, had a son who ended up in the US, in the Guinness Book of Records as the candidate losing the most number of elections) are rather sparse. His life is rather overwhelmed in this piece by the  spoofs of -er - spoofs, albeit carefully matched to the era and time in David's life.

So there's  music hall comedian Max Miller (Joe Alessi, one of the supporting cast slickly taking on a plethora of characters) with his, then, risque routine. The Lord Sutch trademark top hat  of a toff  appearing with male impersonator Ella Shields (Vivienne Acheampong), another music hall veteran.

Lord Snooty (Jack Brown) a cartoon character from popular kids' comic The Beano, wearing a top hat, conflated with Harrow public school uniform, carrying a violin and spouting Latin rubbing in the English class system.

However, while we're regaled with a history of British comedy with pleasurably familiar characterisations such as characters of  Peter Cook and Dandy Nichols (Joanna Brookes in fine impersonation fettle), the details of how Lord Sutch managed to keep in the limelight are frustratingly few.

The play downplays a moderately successful music career with recording contracts, a radio station with a manager who came to an untimely end and group members who went on to stellar music careers. 

We were wondering at the cross over between the recording and comedy industry and politics. But this kind of drawing together never came. The play prefers very general (in fact, much more general to the point of dissipation) overview of political trends from left wing-ism with undertones of communism to Thatcherism.

It's all good fun but rather manufactured, as if the effect on the audience were considered before the script. Still, director Simon Stokes keeps the pace brisk and there's much to enjoy. It just all feels rather pulled this way and that without David's ultimately real-life tragic fate touching us. So, while not wanting to be a party pooper, an amber light.  

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