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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Roar Of The Greasepaint - The Smell Of The Crowd
Finborough Theatre Summer 2011

This deceptively simple-looking 1964 musical by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse is given as delightful a production as you could ask for by this reliably over-achieving above-a-pub theatre. 

The challenge of the show is that it is essentially a one-joke evening Karl Marx as musical comedy and any director and cast have to sustain the concept and hold our interest. This is something director Ian Judge and his performers accomplish with hardly a hiccup. 

In a pairing that suggests Beckett's Pozzo and Lucky, the posh Sir entertains himself by making his poor companion Cocky play unending games that Cocky cannot possibly win because Sir keeps changing the rules. 

Whenever Cocky attempts to quit or rebel, Sir cajoles, flatters, bribes or blackmails him into continuing, but (until a somewhat arbitrary happy ending) the poor man is destined to lose as long as the rich man holds all the power. 

To the credit of the creators, the Marxist allegory is not forced or insisted upon, and the story is punctuated with almost 20 songs, some of which A Wonderful Day Like Today, Who Can I Turn To, Feelin' Good had extended life as pop standards. 

Ian Judge's production bounces along at a snappy pace, with both director and choreographer Tim Jackson not visibly hampered by the Finborough's postage-stamp-sized stage. 

Oliver Beamish skilfully plays the broadly comic Sir without tipping over too far into cartoon, and finds all the overt and subtle jokes in his songs without pushing them too hard. 

Matthew Ashforde brings a clown's grace and expressive face to Cocky, at his best in conveying the ease with which the character lets himself be turned into life's designated loser, though his voice isn't quite strong enough for Newley's power anthems like Who Can I Turn To. 

And a lot of the charm and high spirit of the evening is generated by a delightful chorus line of 'urchins', all of whom deserve to come out from behind their clown's whiteface and become featured performers themselves.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Roar of the Greasepaint - Finborough 2011

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