Tonight I’m Entertaining Richard Gere – Hen and Chickens, London

Reviewer: Rachel Kent

Writer: Cecilia Delatori

Director: Robert Wolstenholme

It’s wonderful how good a table can look with a floor length cloth and a few roses. Throw a curtain over a couple of chairs and you get ‘a sofa look’.

The improvised set of Tonight I’m Entertaining Richard Gere suits the story, which is largely fantasy. Teresa meets her latest potential man at a fancy-dress party for over-40 singles in Muswell Hill. Some lights and a few bowls of twiglets (as well as quantities of alcohol) turn an upstairs pub room into a party venue where she, masquerading as Cat Woman, meets him, disguised as Batman. When he takes off his mask, he is a dead ringer for Richard Gere. Since Richard Gere is quite a lot over 40, chances are he’s a look-alike; but she’s invited him for dinner anyway.

Cecilia Delatori’s brand of comedy is often genial and gentle, at its best when understated. Like Marvellous Mrs Maizel, Teresa finds her domestic knowledge comes in handy – she sensibly checks the washing instructions before writing her phone number in lipstick on Batman’s cape – who’d have thought it was rayon? The humour is less successful when it descends to caricature. The coach stewardess, while comic, is not original. Some jokes, like the one about rosy fingers, seem unnecessarily thrown in, and the random weird wackiness can become tedious.

Becky Lumb, who plays Teresa, has been away from the stage for twenty years. What a waste. Directed by Robert Wolstenholme, she turns Teresa into a believable person. Strutting onto the stage brimming with optimism, she engages audience members with warmth, involving them in fantasy TV shows and imagining the rise and fall of a relationship, before eventually slumping, defeated, onto the reality of the curtain -draped chairs.

Laughter is notoriously close to tears. Seen from another angle, Teresa’s story is not funny at all. She describes being convinced she was pregnant at seven. The story is told lightly but could have been traumatic – ‘I must have miscarried’, she deadpans. More worryingly, she recounts an experience with a former lover that sounds like sexual assault. Intriguing elements of the story are not developed. Fantasising about taking her celebrity boyfriend to meet the parents, she offers a mere glimpse of family dynamics – the mother intent on marriage, the embarrassingly tactless father. Without so many jokes, this would be a richer piece of theatre.

 Runs until 2 October 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Too much entertaining

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. 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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