As something that originally came to being as a university assignment, The Doppel Gang has snowballed into a tour in 2015 and now gets a lengthy run at the Tristan Bates Theatre, all in the capable of hands of Just Some Theatre. Unfortunately, although it may have made for an interesting assignment, the material on show tonight proves to be too thinly spread when presented as a full-length play.
Staring closure in the face, the frustrated manager of a struggling London theatre enlists the help of three equally frustrated performers in order to boost the theatre’s reputation and, thereby, its ticket sales. The four channel their inner commedia and through the lucky discovery of comedy gold dust in script form pull together to create a night of slapstick hilarity! All the while backstage, relationships crumble and form anew as secrets spill, tempers boil and lines are crossed. Yet the show must go on and there is a war on, don’t you know?
Although the premise would seem to promise great things the show itself ultimately fails to deliver. The script is witty and peppered with fantastic lines and sharp quips but these are marred by a plot that feels thrown together and rushed. The character’s relationships are underdeveloped and as a result it is hard to find any one of them affable let alone sympathise with their plight. Their influences are clear and it has to be said that they cleverly weave the comedy of giants such as the Marx Brothers with familiar Brit-wit, at times you are reminded of Oscar Wilde and at others Basil Fawlty. It is during these scenes when the energy picks up and the action rattles along enjoyably but these are short-lived and too often end abruptly with clunky and somewhat unnecessary scene changes, leaving the rhythm stunted and jarring.
Dominic Hedges’ script shows promise but could do with some reworking and added substance. The staging was interesting giving us the behind-the-scenes experience of the theatre, showing us the manic feet furiously paddling beneath the smooth surface (think Noises Off meets The Dresser) but at times the focus was pulled in ambiguous directions. Ultimately a show that is so hugely inspired by, and to an extent about, comedy’s greats requires better, if not impeccable, timing.
The Doppel Gang is fun if underwhelming; a thinly spread plot that is smattered with ten minutes of excellence here and there. It’s a credit to Just Some Theatre for creating new work and managing to tour it nationwide but in the end this show falls at the final hurdle, leaving a lot to be desired.
The Doppel Gang is playing the Tristan Bates Theatre until February 11.
Photo: Mitchell Reeve