The Pocket Orchestra
Trafalgar Studios Spring 2006
This is an amiable and modest little show whose ambition rises no higher than giving you a few chuckles.
It accomplishes that aim nicely, which makes it probably more entertaining than staying home for the evening, though possibly not as good as almost anything else you might choose to do.
Created by Graeme Garden and Callum McLeod, it is a rambling tour through anecdotes and legends about great composers from Thomas Tallis through John Cage.
Our host is Sylvester McCoy in full loveable-grandpa mode, supported by six singer-actor-musicians who play Everyone Else and their instruments, often simultaneously.
There are musical jokes, like a medley of classical themes used in TV adverts, and verbal jokes (Beethoven: 'Would you like to hear my latest concerto? So would I.')
Almost as many fall flat as score - a running gag presenting the loves and rivalries of nineteenth-century composers as episodes in the TV soap Eastenders is particularly wearying - but enough work to keep you in a good mood.
Rossini's claim that he could set a laundry list to music is put to the test, Mozart is played on the spoons, and the audience is enlisted for a Verdi hum-along and to provide the cannon shots for the 1812 Overture.
Sylvester McCoy is fun in his slightly absent-minded way, and the others have been directed by Richard Williams to play every historical figure as a burlesque Italian, German or whatever stereotype.
It's the modesty of the thing that makes it work. In any larger production (or higher prices) it would leave you feeling cheated. Take it for what it is, and you'll have a good time.
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The Pocket Orchestra - Trafalgar Studios 2006