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A CurtainUp London London Review
In The Club

I’m incredibly not self-obsessed. I sponsor a goat in Somalia.
---- Philip
In The Club
Carla Mendoça as Nicola Dawes and James Fleet as Philip Wardrobe
(Photo: Geraint Lewis)
Richard Bean’s new comedy In The Club premieres at Hampstead Theatre. It is a delightful farce, a genre that I have never felt as enthusiastic about as I do now. Why? Because the talented Mr Bean’s humour is original and edgy and bang up to date. Laughter is such a tonic for theatre critics and I laughed more that night at Hampstead than I have for a long time. We are always being asked what we have seen that we can say was excellent. This is the play I can heartily recommend to everyone except, maybe the very prudish, because a lot of the jokes and some of the scenarios are rather saucy. Richard Bean has a very fine ear for the Yorkshire, flat and wry delivery of a brilliant punch line and his character, seasoned Member of the European Parliament and Yorkshire pig farmer, Eddie Fredericks (Richard Moore) has much of the play’s best wit.

The West End farce elements are there: the set with its connecting doors, the participants being caught in their underwear, the mistaken identities which compound the comedy, the sexual intrigue and the complicated cover-ups to try to put matters right. Philip Wardrobe (James Fleet) is the Euro MP for Northamptonshire living the high life in a Strasbourg hotel suite. He and his girlfriend Nicola (Carla Mendoça) are trying to conceive a baby and her ovulation chart dictates an immediate flight to Strasbourg. Philip is assisted by his very capable Russian PA, Sasha (Sian Brooke), an illegal immigrant and star fixer. Turkey are trying to gain membership of the EC and are willing to pay for influencing the vote; Mehmet (Gary Oliver) is willing to fork out millions of Euros in his country’s cause. Wardrobe is not averse to financial incentives to swing the vote and has ambitions to be the president of the European Parliament. Frau Flugelhammerlein (Carol Macready) is a rather dour and censorious German MEP, and the foxy Beatrice Renard (Anna Francolini) leads the French contingent and has set her designs on Philip. Andre (Huw Higginson) pretends to be a Belgian Euroglot plumber but is in fact ….. but there I have said enough!

The interesting thing about In The Club is how credible everyone is, even in these ridiculous situations. It is probably due to James Fleet’s acting skill with tip top timing and David Grindley’s impeccable direction that our disbelief is suspended. How else could we believe that any sane individual would think that walking around with Twiglets* between your toes could help cure Athlete’s Foot? But it also has to be down to Richard Bean’s inventive but closely observed wit. The fuschia pink sex toys sent with a letter demanding that their European manufacturer be investigated is rumbled immediately by Wardrobe as a practical joke from the guys in the pub in his constituency and just what they would get up to after a night on the booze. It seems mean to select out individual performances when the whole cast does so very well but I did enjoy Richard Moore’s Socialist with a blunt, Yorkshire talent for saying the politically incorrect. Jonathan Fensom’s substantial and plush hotel set is perfect and so are the costumes down to Wardrobe’s elegant red braces and matching socks.

*Twig shaped savoury cocktail snack

There are only three more weeks that In The Club is due to run at Hampstead so book it now or you’ll be paying West End prices on transfer, and if this doesn’t transfer, West End theatre owners need their ‘eads examining.

Written by Richard Bean
Directed by David Grindley

Starring: James Fleet, Richard Moore
With: Sian Brooke, Dermot Canavan, Anna Francolini, Huw higginson, Carol Macready, Carla Mendoça, Gary Oliver, Roderick Smith
Design: Jonathan Fensom
Lighting: Jason Taylor
Sound: Gregory Clarke
Running time: Two hours 05 minutes with one interval between Acts Two And Three
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
Booking to 25th August 2007
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 2nd August 2007 performance at the Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, London NW3 (Tube: Swiss Cottage)
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