Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut comes from excellent stock. This loving homage to the film of the same name is chock full of your favourite lines – some of the most iconic in cinema. This definitely gives Casablanca a head start but from there it is all down to the hard graft of the performers. And I’m pleased to say they deliver the funniest show I’ve seen all year.
Don’t panic if you haven’t seen Casablanca (the film) before venturing to Pleasance for The Gin Joint Cut, chances are you know the best lines through the strange forces of cultural osmosis. Or the gist at least. “Here’s looking at you, Sam.” Or something. It is one of those films where no one quite gets the lines right. But then the script did have seven writers working on it so you have a right to be confused.
The tale of the French resistance escaping the grasp of the Nazis informs the backdrop but this is truly a spoof; a spoof on par with the likes of ‘Allo ‘Allo or the excellent 39 Steps over at the Criterion Theatre. The accents are laid on thick and fast. The small cast of three takes on every role you saw in the film and even some you didn’t.
I wish I could single out a member of the cast to praise but I can’t. They all deserve acclaim. The actors were vying for the biggest laugh in the spirit of friendly competition, rather than nasty one-upmanship. By pushing each other they squeeze fresh comedy out of every moment. If you feel a ‘lull’ in the action know it is only the setup for the punchline to come.
Casablanca is slick after achieving roaring success at the Edinburgh Fringe. It shows none of the teething problems usually associated with a show on opening night. The design certainly suggested somewhere more grounded than the usual fringe show – which have next to no set to help with the tight ten minute get outs. The stage encompasses bar, office, police station and air strip with ease.
I was stunned at the rate of the gags. Even the furniture was in on the act. Both the ashtrays got a laugh. Both of them. I’ve seen comedies so bad that neither of the comic relief characters can get a laugh out of the audience. Casablanca managed it with one overflowing ashtray and the other which was mimed – it happened to look a bit like a sugar bowl. Funnier when you see it.
This show is not for everyone. There’s more going on than silly accents and infrequently emptied ashtrays, but if phony accents don’t tickle your funny bone then this might not click with you. But if you like ridiculous accents and don’t see this you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, etc. When the weather is wet, and the nights are dark, it is no wonder to see why everybody goes to Rick’s.
Since I’ve got home from watching The Gin Joint Cut I’ve been watching clips from the film. I want to see if I can spot the Austrian on the runway. The actors spoke with such authority about the film that you want to check their facts. If it was all true then that just makes it funnier.
Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut is playing at Pleasance Islington until 21 October. For more information and tickets please see the Pleasance Theatre website.