Theatre Twice in One Day

It’s not often that the stars align so that it’s possible to catch two West End shows in one day, but this Thursday was one such red letter day.

First, it was Shrek The Musical, at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.  I’ve only ever seen bits of the film, so it hadn’t really occurred to me just how specifically it was directed at children, and of course, a matinée performance is just the time to take the under-10s.  I was therefore somewhat apprehensive when I saw the dozen or so crocodiles of small children waiting outside the theatre being shouted out by already frazzled looking adults.

But, once inside, the extra buzz of chatter and rustling of restless bottoms on seats gave me the feeling that I was about to see a pantomime. Every now and again there would be a moment of audience reaction, a special sort of tinny, rattling laughter that reminded me of a Crackerjack audience; that collection of children in their school uniforms and Brownie and Boy Scout outfits cheering the silliness of a Friday afternoon teatime television.

What to say about the show?  It was silly and a lot of fun, taking pops at fairy tales and sending up rival musicals; it’s also got its share of sly humour and clever stagecraft.  There was tap dancing, talking gingerbread and stuffed animals, but no particularly memorable tunes, with the exception of I’m a Believer which they performed from the top of a green wedding cake as an encore.

Perhaps my favourite image was that of the dragon, looming out of the stage at us, its wings raised, ready to fly, the men manipulating it, black clad and athletic, underneath.

Fortified by a couple of glasses of wine and a pizza, next on my agenda was The Complete World of Sports (abridged) by Reduced Shakespeare Company.  It’s always a risk having me at comedy, because so much of it does nothing other than irritate me, but I always try to approach it with an open mind.

And this was fun, silly dressing up with funny hats and wigs, with occasional pratfalls , but it’s also sharp and witty, satirising many of the clichés of sport and its reporting, ridiculing the hyperbolic metaphors and poor grammar.  The performers react to the audience, and even seek audience participation (I’m glad I didn’t know in advance), but by doggedly avoiding eye contact I escaped selection.

Following on the sports theme, I was even home in time to catch the television late night Olympic round-up which featured both John McEnroe and Daley Thompson, two of the favourites from my youth, both of their fiery personalities now mellowed, transforming them into outspoken and amusing national treasures.

All in all, a day of entertainment.

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