BORN TO LEAD..
This is a pleasure, quirky and full-hearted, musically adroit and fast-moving and witty. Furthermore, I think its self-mocking variety-show humour can be extra to the style of the protagonists within the occasions it retells than any pious heroics. It’s the true story of how ,in 1943 ,M15 spoofed the Germans into defending Sardinia somewhat than the actual invasion goal, Sicily. A submarine planted the corpse of an unknown tramp, dressed as a crashed pilot with a rigorously curated fictional id, to clean up on the Spanish coast with a briefcase of pretend plans. As one planner says on this present “Disgusting, weird, borderline psychopathic”, nevertheless it labored, and saved hundreds of lives.
Overlook the horrible latest movie with Colin Firth, taming a fantastic wartime story into rom-com cheesiness. Maybe keep in mind the 1956 movie, The Man Who By no means Was, based mostly on the guide by Lt.Cmdr Ewen Montagu of British naval intelligence. He was a part of it, and is performed right here with depraved bravado by Natasha Hodgson, defying the warning of Zoe Roberts because the Colonel, encouraging the nervous geeky scientist Charlie (David Cumming). Hogson, Cumming, and Roberts are – with the musician Felix Hagan – the corporate SplitLip, creators of the complete present. Those that be part of them or alternate are totally within the fast-moving idiom they’ve created. It’s a breath of contemporary air to search out this spirit in a world the place dearer, anxiously spectacular musicals too typically end up far, far duller.
So its arrival within the West Finish is one thing to rejoice for a lot of causes. As a result of just like the best comedy down the years it was born of 4 buddies and nonetheless has the empathetic, ironic mutual understanding which that entails. As a result of it emerged from the perimeter, was believed in by the adventurous New Diorama and Southwark Playhouse;. As a result of her up West, with snazzier manufacturing values and a coup-de-theatre finale set, it has not been tamed and smoothed and bullied out of its joyful student-revue ambiance.
It’s humorous, however with the boldness to be transferring and humane as properly. It joyfully guys the stiff-lipped officer-class males (three of the 5 onstage are ladies) with the large opening quantity “Born to Lead”, and faux-Etonian mottos “By no means Belief the Servants, and Horses Can’t Inherit”. The music “Making a Man”, whereas they design the fictional pilot Invoice reminds us how WW2 movies and performs curated concepts of that form of hero. It catches in comedy each the nervousness of Charles Cholmondely within the face of the medalled officers, and the issue Ewen and Ian Fleming and the remaining had in persuading their bosses – “it’s not half-arsed! It’s whole-arsed! If not over-arsed!”. The pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury , advising on the corpse, is a top-hatted magician who retains showing unnervingly from the cleverly easy backdrop; Jak Malone is consistently humorous, but in addition by no means extra when enjoying a prim Moneypenny main the feminine workforce (there’s a nice quantity, “Helpful” within the second half through which the ladies of 1943 understand it isn’t them who’ll get the medals).
However his secretarial function is among the deepest joys: character comedy doesn’t come a lot lovelier than a balding chap in a rumpled gray shirt channelling with lethal accuracy a center aged authorities lady-clerk of the Nineteen Forties. Nor does the humanity and respect present extra movingly than in his unforgettable second in the direction of the tip of the primary half. A faux love letter must be written from the fictional pilot’s fictitious girlfriend, to nestle in his pockets, and it isn’t the kids who can write it . It’s her, the frumpy survivor of the final battle’s losses, and the music is essentially the most heartbreakingly , intentionally workaday and restrained of wartime love letters. As a result of as she says, “something that provides any of these boys a preventing likelihood”…Then all of a sudden we’re on the docks – sharp quick work with props and set right through, scenes flash by – and the solid have change into submarine crew singing deep and sailorlike, plain and critical once more, leaving the intense patter songs and intelligent rhymes alone for a second. Then a nightclub burlesque the place the staff attempt to loosen up is intercut with the sub crew , horrifiedly obedient, taking off their hats to ship the physique to its future.
It’s these switches to seriousness alongside the gaiety which, each two years in the past within the barer Southwark manufacturing and on this one, marked for me the standard of the piece. After all there’s triumph, and a rousing finale with sudden surprising tech, nevertheless it fades to acknowledge , fantastically, the truth that fifty years later the nameless lifeless tramp was given his identify. Solely final month in Huelva in Spain the gravestone erected to him was marked with a memorial totally acknowledging his unusual, posthumous fictional service: “Glyndwr Michael; Served as Main William Martin, RM”.
www.thefortunetheatre.com to 19 August
Leave a Reply