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BWW Review: THE DOPPEL GANG, Tristan Bates Theatre

While the Blitz rages round them, a group of actors fail to find an audience with their tired Vaudeville routines, dated stuff that even bores them. But, when they are sent underground again by the wail of air raid sirens, they discover a chest with some unproduced Marx Brothers routines on dusty paper and that gives them an idea.

Just Some Theatre are a newish company and they clearly have a respect, even a love, for the Marx Brothers' combination of slapstick pratfalls and one-liner laden patter. Which makes the first hour of the play so hard to understand. Instead of the punch and pace all comedy needs, we get long scenes of overly familiar generic backstage bickering and an endless procession of scene changes that sap what little momentum has built up in the narrative. It feels like Dominic Hedges wrote a script for a revolve and then didn't get one.

That's a shame, because once we get to the Marx Brothers tribute act stuff, it isn't bad. Jake Urry, having flogged his money-grabbing theatre manager part to death, is much more fun as Chico, as is Jordan Moore's Groucho, the sidle and the sneer just right. Peter Stone gets physical as Harpo, but his underdeveloped conscript on the run storyline as actor Tommy, gets in the way. Rachel Hartley isn't given enough to do as Groucho's southern belle romantic interest, but she gets the accent spot on, the moll's twang suiting her much more than the Barbara Windsor voice she uses as actress / singer Rachel.

The show is unbalanced - twenty minutes of fun takes eighty minutes to set up. More of the madcap Marxs and less of the troupe bickering (and nothing at all of an interminable and unnecessary sequence about a lighting problem) and I suggest everyone would be happier. As it stands now, it's something of a missed opportunity - one to duck, as it's just not super enough.

The Doppel Gang continues at Tristan Bates Theatre until 11 February.

Photo Tom Barker.

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