StageScan Pick: Travesties

The pro critics gave Travesties at Menier Chocolate Factory an average 4.3 stars, with four awarding five. Sarah Crompton (What’s On Stage) hailed Tom Stoppard’s “thrilling mix of fact and fiction” in which, Kate Kellaway (Observer) explained, “forgetful nonentity Henry Carr, a former British consul… swanks about having known James Joyce, Lenin and Dadaist artist Tristan Tzara”. Dominic Cavendish (The Telegraph) hailed a “cryptic-crossword of a modern classic” in which “the erratic Carr mind becomes a postmodern playground”. He described “high-wire feats of linguistic daring” including “an entire scene in the limerick form… exchanges in Russian, outbreaks of nonsense, a super-abundance of allusions, word-play and parodies” and “a running pastiche of The Importance of Being Earnest”. Crompton enjoyed “Wildean aphorisms” and “really good – and often quite silly – jokes”. Kellaway described “a literary Babel… with no plot and no brakes” and Cavendish admitted: “In lesser hands, such overload could be insufferable”.

Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) agreed, but found Patrick Marber “really makes it work… it rattles along”. Cavendish said: “The artifice is fleet, funny and hooks you in even as you pant to keep up.” Crompton heard “the emotional notes sound deep beneath the frenetic farce” and Kellaway detected “the sense of a playwright intoxicated by his own brilliance” in a production both found “scintillating”.

In a cast variously called “spry”, “excellent”, “first-rate” or “top-notch”, Cavendish observed “the finesse of accomplished farceurs”. He saw Tom Hollander play Carr “to the comic hilt, absent of gaze, laughably conscious of couture, almost the philistine-fool”, yet eventually reveal “a Great War survivor struggling to assert some semblance of belief in order in the face of engulfing meaninglessness”. Crompton found him “superb… bemused and charming” yet betraying “melancholy terror” and Kellaway found the performance “sensational… compulsively watchable”.

Cavendish said Freddie Fox “shines as the insolent Tzara” and Kellaway found the performance “dapper” and “gloriously over-the-top”. She praised Peter McDonald’s “comically understated” James Joyce, and Cavendish thought him “spot-on”. Letts found Clare Foster “particularly comical” and Kellaway enjoyed her “rivalrous tea for two” with Amy Morgan.

She found this “impeccably constructed – or deconstructed – literary romp… teeming with playful ideas… a tonic from start to finish”. Crompton found “the crackling intelligence… infectious” and summed up “a moment to treasure… like vintage champagne, rich and effervescent… with a mellow, lingering aftertaste”. Letts reported “a cracker” and Cavendish echoed many in suggesting “anything less” than “a West End transfer… would be a travesty.”

We now have tickets for the much-predicted West End transfer, so visit StageScan now to make sure you don’t miss out.

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