TOBY PARKER REES thinks ‘this is a production that very much deserves to be seen’.

ADC Theatre, 2nd – 6th February,  7.45pm,  £6-9

Directed by Pippa Dinnage

[Rating:4/5]

Before the review, since I hear from David Lowry that Tab is read exclusively by perverts I should say that in the first five minutes of this play you get to see the whole cast in their very brief briefs. Front AND back. Good, ok, then. This is a production that very much deserves to be seen. Notice that I say production, rather than play. The script is, for the most part, dreck. It reads like one of those sitcoms that gets cancelled in America and then bought by E4 as part of their reptilian plan to shrink our brains to worker ant size. At one point a man mentions how he never asks for directions. Even Michael Macintyre knows that’s a cliché by now. As a production, however, it is excellent. Seinfeld-level performances, West End slickness and in the interval I had to shout my order at the bar. Everyone was humming too loud. A film couldn’t support this script, but theatre is not one of those tired finished arts, it is immediate and engaging, so the performances explode the script.

Photos: Tim Johns – www.timjohns.co.uk

The four actors play more roles between them than an English student can comfortably count, bringing a dextrous warmth to each character, however fleeting. The combination of heavy stylisation and particular nuance reminded me most of a Pixar film, which is praise indeed. This comparison extends to the audience as well; it is a truism that there’s something for everyone with Pixar, so the laughter and applause tends to be tiered. Throughout the performance last night there was a strange duet between the appreciative brays whenever innuendo or gender archetype appeared and the cackles of the cognoscenti at the actual comedy. Musical comedy lives and dies by the intercourse of voice and music and I Love You You’re Perfect etc is sexual. The music is played with verve and élan, and every actor’s singing voice matches their overall accomplishment of expression. If it was sex you’d ruin your sheets and lose your deposit. The battle of the sexes theme applies even to the musicians, Travis Winstanley on piano and Sarah Morley on violin. Vaudeville chemistry, lovely. It is becoming a tedious default reaction to preface a good review of an uncontroversial production with a defensive comparison to the highbrow or the avant-garde. By this standard I should finish by saying ‘it isn’t Beckett, but Beckett was a French-speaking bedwetter’. But luckily for all of us I’m not Jeremy Clarkson. I will say that relatively safe comedy performed and directed fantastically is far superior to Ricky Gervais awkwardly calling Barack Obama a monkey, or whatever’s being bellowed about Heather Mills’ stump on Mock the Week. The jokes in this play, however, are not as good as Stewart Lee’s. But it is an immensely entertaining, polished and near faultless production of a very popular play, far exceeding the various limp and uninspired incarnations it had in Edinburgh this Summer.