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I have to say; I had my reservations about this one. After a particularly bad experience with a similar show: The Play that Goes Wrong, in the West End, I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of laughs. After all, if a West End production can’t make me chuckle, how on earth could a university performance?
However, Judge Judy popped up too soon, because quite frankly, it was fantastic. Much better than its London counterpart, with only one or two things I can think to improve on. Delightfully silly and remarkably well-rehearsed, the performances and transitions were slick and smooth in a curiously uncoordinated way. The minimalistic set worked well to create as much mess as possible – as efficiently as possible, allowing for a quick clean up in the interval ready for the ‘show’.
The slapdash and chaotic nature of ‘Stop!… The Play’ was seamless, which is (surprisingly) incredibly difficult to do. As such, I have to commend the production team: director Jacqui Clark, stage manager Fiamma Curti and all of their hard-working crew for producing such an effortlessly messy show as well as adding to the farce with their involvement and characterisation in the interval and performance. It was a nice touch and added that extra dimension.
The entire cast gave their all as well. There wasn’t one weak link. Jacqui Clark, who alongside being the director took an acting role, was great, playing an increasingly frazzled and harassed Chrissie. While Finn Burridge and Rosie Schofield made an exceptional and hilarious pair as the flamboyant, egotistical Hugh and wonderfully ditzy Gemma. Their limbs seem to exalt themselves as they performed, flip-flopping into various poses to indeed push the ‘theatrical’ nature of their characters.
Jordan Summerfield offered a hugely entertaining portrayal of poor Walter, a dithery old man who fondly (and repeatedly) reminisced about his plays from the ’80s. His comedic timing was excellent, if not alarmingly accurate for an old man, and his antics had the audience in stitches. Naomi Chidambaram and Viktor Hristov kept us consistently amused as Linda and Kriston with their sheer apathy and attitude. An unscrupulous sense of doneness seemed to drip from their faces as they interacted with the other more ostentatious characters. (Hugh!)
A special mention goes to Lewis Pugh, playing the haphazard and incompetent director, Evelyn. He gave a particularly stellar performance, somewhat stealing the show. His tone and mannerisms were wonderfully comic and hyperbolic, without becoming grating, and it must be said that he has an inherent knack for comedic delivery.
Despite my praise for the show and its cast and crew, there was one thing that slightly let it down. The very nature of some of the writing. I wasn’t enthused by the running: ‘ain’t gay’ motif towards the latter half of the production, between both the male and female sets of characters. For such a funny and talented ensemble and production, it felt like a bit of a cheap gag that appeared to get far too much stage time in various ways. Once was enough, perhaps too much, but it seemed to reoccur frequently.
Still, aside from this, the performance was brilliant. One of the best I have seen in a long time. The cast and crew of ‘Stop!… The Play’ are going places. They’ll be wearing innumerable hats and probably chasing after a monkey, but they’re going places. So, keep an eye out, and watch this space.