Thursday, 3 January 2013

Salad Days, Riverside Theatre

It's great to be able to get a third chance to go and see Tete-a-Tete's Salad Days at the Riverside. A sold-out hit when it was first produced at the Riverside in 2009 (and once more since) this modest, energetic, unfailingly English - with the possible exception of pronouncing the word 'niche' in the American 'nitch' - postwar vaudeville is all technicolour sunlight & smiles.

I haven't enjoyed myself so much in a theatre for a long while. All facets of Bill Bankes-Jones' production conspire to delight, from the astroturf stage in the round to the bright yellow backcloth. A pre-curtain conceit of having the cast show you to your seat as if at a university graduation also sets the tone, not only of welcome and proximity, but also the unstinting professionalism of the in-character cast who never laugh at the sixty-year old show but always with it.

Above all in this respect is the meticulously tooled English enunciation, which allows the book to breathe afresh and the cast to smile relentlessly. This is particularly noticeable in the piano-pianah number (like the Gershwins' Let's Call The Whole Thing Off) where middle-class and estuary divisions spill over one another, clear and rich. Dance numbers are just as finessed and often song and dance occur at the same time. If you're on the front row, as I was, you might even get an idea of the effort involved by the spray of sweat.

This is my second, unashamedly upbeat show of the new year (Jack Frost counts as 2013 for me!) and also has plenty of pantomime-style touches, with minor audience participation in an infectious dance set piece and a song about singing, right at the end. There's also plenty of pun-work in the text but it's delivered without winking (though the drummer in Anthony Ingle's fine four-piece band is prepared to help point the jokes).

The ideal show to escape the bunker mentality of cold old London town in January.

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