The Worst Little Warehouse in London – Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham

Writers: Lala Barlow and Robbie Smith

Director: Sarah Redmond

Reviewer: James Garrington

As the lights dim we hear, in nature documentary style, that this is a tale of two koalas venturing forth into the world. They find themselves in a strange and distant place, full of excitement for what the future holds – or, more mundanely, it’s an Australian couple who have moved to London where the time is “Maggie Smith”.

After hopping from one Airbnb to another it’s time to find a place to call home. Welcome to The Worst Little Warehouse in London. There they share their accommodation with 12 other people, all played by Lala Barlow and Robbie Smith, each one with their own very distinctive idiosyncrasies. There’s the German fitness freak, the activist with an unfortunate lisp, the sex-mad yoga fanatic, the out-of-work actor who once performed in Cats and is now working on his next audition for The Great British Bake-Off – all of them easily recognisable thanks to a simple prop, piece of costume, mannerism and well-pitched accent. Each of them has their quirks, each quirk is well-portrayed and each one is very funny as a result. The characters are so well-defined that we feel we know them well by the end of the show – better in fact than we know Barlow and Smith, which is a pity.

This is not just an observational comedy cabaret though – it’s also a musical parody, and Barlow and Smith are excellent musicians. Armed only with a keyboard (and a random kazoo at one point) they perform a series of musical excerpts – sometimes complete numbers, often just a few bars – almost all brilliantly funny parodies of popular songs or musical theatre classics that will be instantly recognisable to any musicals fan. They come so fast that it’s hard to keep up sometimes, as we listen to Billy Joel, City of Angels, Chicago, Into the Woods, Cats and much more than it’s possible to keep track of in one visit. Their keyboard skills are very impressive too, both individually and together.

The show doesn’t let up for an instant during its 55-minutes run time. It’s slick, well-rehearsed and fast-paced. The characters are brilliantly quirky, the spoken comedy and lyrics are hilarious, and the use of odd bars of music to highlight character traits is very well judged. It all adds up to something you should try to catch – and you’ll probably want to see it again to catch the stuff you missed first time round.

Runs Until 1 June 2019 and on tour  | Image: Ben Fon

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Will put a smile on your face

The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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