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The Boy Who Was Woody Allen – Pleasance Theatre, London

Writer: David Simmons, Geoff Morrow

Director: Adam Morley

Reviewer: Joanna Forest


The Boy who was Woody Allen is a new comedy written by David Simmons and Geoff Morrow. Delightfully quirky and surreal, it features 6ft tall, 18 year old Catholic boy John O’Leary from New York. Not sure of which direction to take in life, he has an epiphany that his right course is to be comedian Woody Allen. Much to the shock of his mother, and disdain from his careers advisor, he becomes set on this ambition.

James Phelps – Fred Weasley of Harry Potter fame – marks his theatre debut as comedian wannabe Woody. Totally engaging the audience as he speaks to us directly narrator-style, Phelps takes us along O’Leary’s unusual journey of how he eventually managed to succeed and take the Woody Allen Crown.

O’Leary meets many different characters along the way to the top, and these are all executed brilliantly by a truly versatile cast. In particular, Carrie Marx stands out through her clever and varied characterisations. A highlight of the play is her opening performance of first wife Valhalla – which is executed with the appropriate level of wit and conviction. And it is this disastrous marriage to Valhalla provides O’Leary, as Allen, plenty of stand up material – fuelling his rise to stardom.

O’Leary is eager however to feel and embrace all things Jewish, leaving his Catholic roots behind, learning how to ‘Kvetch’, greeting people with ‘Shalom’ and wishing them ‘Mazletov’. He even finds a Kosher Patisserie called ‘Olga’s Orifice’ – selling challah bread in all manner of shapes and sizes. Although O’Leary’s road to ultimate comedy star may be bumpy and windy, nothing will deter him from his plan.

A simple set and projector flashing images help tell the story, as does Adam Morley’s clear direction. Take a comedy agent, sex obsessed psychiatrist, second Woody Allen rival with CIA connections and a Moose!, interject some great character songs, patters and satirical dance moves and you have ‘The Boy Who was Woody Allen’ – thoroughly entertaining!

Runs until 9th February

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