Writer: Dominic Hedges
Director Terence Mann
Reviewer: Ruby Isla Cera Marle
As the Blitz pulverises its way through war-torn London, a team of hapless but well-intentioned performers are trying to contribute to boosting morale, by providing some theatrical light relief. Struggling to get punters through their door, they face the prospect of financial ruin, with no choice but to cut their losses and close down their establishment. The John Cleese-esque theatre manager, Lombard (Jake Urry), is under mounting pressure to turn these impending fortunes around.
The Doppel Gang is slick, playful and well-paced. The cast of four, from the wittily named Just Another Theatre Company, cavort around the intimate Tristan Bates Theatre, masters of tomfoolery, each with a cheeky glint in their eye. Plans to save the theatre include promising an entirely new line-up with 13 new acts on the bill, yet Lombard still only has a motley crew of three performers. Cue a quick-fire dash, as the trio hastily changes into a series of costumes, distorted voices, and dart across the space. All the while being heckled by a half empty audience.
The Doppel Gang takes the “Art holds up a mirror to nature” notion and runs with it. Sometimes literally – at the start of Act Two the ever-enigmatic Tommy (Peter Stone) performs an entire speech, with his back to the audience. Our lens is his reflection in the dressing room mirror. A recurring theme that reverberates throughout the work is the deconstruction of theatrical tropes. Skillfully creating a microcosm of the arts; for instance, the audience is often positioned backstage, watching the flailing performers through a translucent piece of cloth. Theatre should be thought-provoking and its self-reflective quality is extremely refreshing.
In a last-ditch attempt to save the theatre, the charismatic quartet decides to stage a never performed Marx Brothers play, rife with physical comedy and cleverly crafted wordplay. There is not a single weak link in the cast and their slick delivery is a complete and utter joy. Everything about this production feels considered, from the musical interludes over the wireless between scenes, to the very versatile set, every quip timed to comedic perfection.
The Doppel Gang will make you laugh, feel like you’ve discovered a thrilling new theatre company and will leave you with an urge to see more Marx Brothers inspired comedy.
Runs until 11 February 2017 | Image: Mitchell Reeve