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 The Theatreguide.London Review

See U Next Tuesday
Albery Theatre      Autumn-Winter 2003-2004

This new comedy is very funny, very trivial, very formulaic, very short, and very funny.

You will laugh a lot, for a total of just barely an hour (plus long interval). Put another way, if they juggled their starting times, you could see this show and Tell Me On A Sunday, and still be out almost an hour before the National Theatre's Three Sisters was finished.

Whether you think that's worth your 38.50 is up to you, but I will repeat that it is very funny.

Francis Veber's 1993 farce, here in an adaptation by Ronald Harwood, bears more than a passing resemblance to the American Larry Shue's 1981 comedy The Nerd. In both, a hapless soul is visited and tormented by a boorish idiot who just won't go away.

Veber's twist is that the victim deserves all he gets. Nigel Havers plays a jaded sophisticate whose circle entertain themselves with weekly dinner parties to which they each invite the biggest bore they can find, for their own cruel entertainment.

He's got a guaranteed winner this week in the matchstick model builder played by Ardal O'Hanlon, but a bad back and his wife walking out on him mean that Havers can't show his prize off, but is stuck with him at home.

O'Hanlon's character is not just dumb, but unquenchably eager to please, and it is his campaign to help Havers get his wife back, with each botched attempt generating an even more complicated scheme, that drives the plot.

The two leads are absolutely first-rate, and play off each other like a veteran comic team. Playing an innocent fool is, of course, not much of a stretch for O'Hanlon (cf TV's Father Ted), any more than playing one more manic character would challenge Jim Carrey. It's what he does, and he does it very well.

Watching him bollix up one try after another is hilarious. The character is particularly dangerous on the telephone, and the plot gives him several opportunities to start off well and then screw up.

At one point they somehow get the idea of impersonating an Italian film producer in order to trick the party on the other end of the line into telling them where the wife has gone, and he gets so excited by successfully buying the rights to a novel that he forgets to ask the question.

As funny as O'Hanlon is, it is really Havers who is the evening's delightful discovery, proving himself a skilled straight man, with a collection of double takes and slow burns that would do Oliver Hardy proud, and keeping the poor guy sympathetic even as we are never allowed to forget what a bastard he is.

No one else in the cast of experienced old comic hands, which includes Patrick Ryecart, Patsy Kensit and Geoffrey Hutchings, is really given much to do, and the play ends with an abruptness that catches the audience by surprise.

It is short. It is instantly forgettable. It probably really belongs on TV rather than in the West End. But it is very funny.

Gerald Berkowitz

PS Oh, and the odd spelling of the title is there to encourage you to see an off-colour (and irrelevant) acronym.

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Review of  See U Next Tuesday - Albery Theatre 2003
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