Praise bejesus Katherine Kingsley hasn’t disappeared during Dirty Rotten Scoundrels‘ current cast change. Instead, Alex Gamound has replaced Rufus Hound as Freddy Benson, joining recent additions Bonnie Langford and Gary Wilmot. Robert Lindsay reprises his role as “charismatic” Lawrence Jameson.
Oh what a ball this is! There’s plenty to keep even the most severe of mind wanderers gripped, with catchy music and lyrics by David Yazbek, book courtesy of Tony-nominated Jeffrey Lane, beautiful (yet hardly time specific) costumes and a constantly evolving set by Olivier Award-winner Peter Mckintosh. From the outset, the audience are caught in a mesmerising spell, not least by Lindsay who generates huge bellowing laughs from most people (wonder how much he paid them?). There’s never a dull moment, yet I can’t help feel I was somehow absent during the taking of happy medicine that my neighbours ingested.
Lindsay certainly thinks a lot of himself. Yes, I hear your screams of “but his character is supposed to be bloody arrogant!”, and I agree. But his interaction with the crowd surpasses sickly. The knowing smiles and embarrassing ‘dance’ moves ring true of Bruce Forsyth, only with much less leathery skin. Gaumond, however, is great and a welcome addition to an already well-oiled machine. He is at home in this ridiculous yet endearing role and I can’t imagine anyone else as Freddy (admittedly I didn’t see Hound). Wilmot and Langford feel second-rate until they shine in Act II with a typically cringey post-coital and post booze discussion.
Need I say how much I adore Kingsley in this, or indeed everything she has done? She is an effortlessly funny actress, and I’ve not seen any other person bring such truth and ease to a role. Kingsley, for me, makes Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Her frequent transition from all-American girl to excitable demon with an unsettling deep, rumbling voice is just an absolute delight, and the big reveal only cements her talent.
This is great fun but it dwells far too much on a pet hate of mine: why can’t a show and its characters remain so and leave the audience alone? Lindsay’s chumminess with the audience and inclusion of them in many stagey jokes is just infuriating. I wonder how well this translates to a more general audience, rather than those in the industry? Dirty Rotten Scoundrels‘ success suggests rather well, I suppose – perhaps it’s just me then?
On the whole I enjoyed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and can possibly forgive the niggles mentioned. If you want a fun night out, or you are a fan of the film or any of the cast, then go for it.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is booking at the Savoy Theatre until March 2015. For more information and tickets, see the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels website.
Image by Johan Persson