BWW Reviews: CASABLANCA THE GIN JOINT CUT, The Pleasance Theatre, October 4 2012


With the genre of movie spoofs so embedded in every multiplex, it's something of a surprise that there are so few on stage. Casablanca The Gin Joint Cut (at The Pleasance Theatre until 21 October) follows in the footsteps of Airplane! and countless Wayans brothers films and relentlessly pokes Humph and Ingrid right in the funny bone. Sacrilege! Well, not really. Morag Fullarton's 75-minute play is as much homage as comedy and the movie's greatest fans will smile and laugh along with the rest of us.

After a slightly superfluous piece of 1940s Hollywood scene-setting from a cowboy stuntman and a muckraking journalist, this Casablanca hits its stride in Rick's Bar, with Gavin Mitchell's "Bogart as Rick" grimacing and manoeuvring in the trademark cream linen jacket. Clare Waugh's "Bergman as Ilsa" is icy and torn if not quite as beautiful as the original - but who is? Jimmy Chisholm's multiple-hat wearing suporting turns playing a variety of nationals, both pro and anti Nazi, steal most of the laughs - that's if the whole darned thing wasn't in danger of being stolen by a twelve-inch wooden pianist exhorted to "Play it once, Sam, for old times' sake". And there's a singalong Marseillaise - of course there's a singalong Marseillaise.    

Like most comedy. this Casablanca would be improved by a bit of ruthless editing, but there's no want of laughs nor genuine love for the original. Like many under the age of fifty, I've never actually seen Casablanca from start to finish, but its story is so well known, its characters and the actors who play them so instantly recognisable and the lines (and all the old favourites are included) as deeply set in our culture as Shakespeare's, that not knowing much about the spoofed subject doesn't matter. Perhaps the best tribute to this warm and clever play is that it makes me want to watch the original cut - and I'm just one click away from YouTube. 

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