Gerald Roth and his family enjoy all the perquisites and quirks that come with the middle-class lifestyle; Costa Rican coffee; an array of Ikea furniture; a meddling mother-in-law; a renegade daughter bent on marrying her cousin! But when cracks appear in Gerald’s fine wine shop, (brilliantly named ‘Grapes of Roth’!) his family’s comfort is threatened. Fortunately, Gerald discovers that he has been wearing the solution on his wrist for years. His inherited watch has been valued at a minimum of £30,000 because its original owner is discovered to be none other than Nazi diplomat and Hitler’s right hand man, Joachim Von Ribbentrop. Gerald is left with the dilemma as to whether he sells the watch and rebuilds his business with Nazi gold, or whether he continues to watch his business slowly crumble; the decision being made that little bit harder seeing as he’s Jewish!
The play couldn’t be performed in a more suiting venue; Richmond Theatre is beautifully elegant and spacious; the stage props scream middle aged and middle-class and perfectly set up the events that ensue. Full of twists, turns and witty, three-dimensional characters, I have to say that I enjoyed ‘Von Ribbentrop’s Watch’. The cute family relationships are more than endearing and the bursting levels of familiarity make the whole performance easily digestible.
Having mentioned that the performance is certainly watchable, I would also say that that’s all it is. There’s nothing exciting about the character’s relationships with one another. The mother-in-law from hell gags have already been bled dry, and the struggling marriage followed by quick reconciliation is an old trick that should only be played with the utmost originality.
Obviously a Nazi watch in the hands of a financially needing Jew is original and allows room for incredible dramatic tension. Unfortunately, Marks and Gran don’t seem to make the most of such potential. They don’t tease out this shocking secret (along with many others that are uncovered throughout the performance) but instead let it become apparent in an explosion of drama, which inevitably becomes unsatisfactorily entangled in the final stages of a plot that is altogether void of sub-text and tension.
Perhaps I am being a bit harsh; the people around me seemed to be enjoying themselves (although I did appear to be the only audience member below the age of 25). The ‘cheeky’ references to sex were very generously received; throwing the theatre into uproar at times. The performers delivered their ‘zingers’ well and managed to fulfil their well developed characters. I should mention Nicholas Woodeson in particular, who was a fantastic stage presence and made the most of protagonist Gerald’s dramatic splurges.
In short, I’m sure that the average AYT reader can find a more suitable way to spend an evening, particularly seeing as the ticket prices aren’t exactly economy. By all means bring your parents or your grand-parents or your great grand-parents, but if you’re looking for edgy, new, cutting drama, then this probably isn’t for you.
Von Ribbentrop’s Watch is playing at the Richmond Theatre until the 9th October. Tickets can be booked via their website.