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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Dante's Inferno
Comedy Theatre    Winter 2004-2005

Veteran stand-up comic and playwright Arthur Smith offers a short run of this self-penned oddity, which amounts to a lecture on the twin subjects of Dante's epic poem and Smith's own recent medical problems, brought on by a lifetime of blokeish hard drinking.

It turns out that the two subjects really have little in common, except for Smith's ability to make jokes about each. He has a way with the wry zinger, and although he stretches what is at best a half-hour of good material to a little over an hour (plus interval),  a lot of his comments and throwaway lines are quite funny.

But there's no play or even performance piece here. He does have a couple of costume changes and fellow comic Adam Wide providing support, but neither adds much.

Mainly Smith just stands at a lectern, reading from his script. As I said, both his material and his delivery are amiable, but there's no theatre piece here. At most, it might make an amusing radio monologue, but it really is a comic essay, written to be read, not listened to.

I've been a Smith fan for 25 years, since his beginnings in one of the best revue groups ever to appear at the Edinburgh Festival. But my advice to him would be to tighten this script up and publish it as an article or minibook, like some of Alan Bennett's pieces.

And my advice to you would be to wait until he does, and read it then.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Dante's Inferno - Comedy Theatre 2004
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