About fifteen minutes into Doodle the Musical I expected Graham Chapman to come in in an Army uniform and say “OK stop this now, it’s much too silly”. It is very sub-Python and indeed very silly from start to finish. The plot (described below) is barking – we are at the far end of the reality spectrum here. It is entertaining at times, but inconsistently so with quite long gaps when the audience titters not. That said it is energetic and very well acted and sung. The cast of ten play over thirty parts, the direction is tight and the show moves along in a pacey (and sometimes racy) way.
The problem with lampooning a serious subject such as war is that it can be seen as disrespectful. Joan Littlewood avoided this all those decades ago with “Oh What a Lovely War” by having a deeply serious intent – to expose the futility of war and lambast the incompetent pursuit of it by British Generals. It worked. With Doodle I don’t think there is a serious intent – we are in familiar Python territory throughout and as such it is not very original – and certainly not as well written as Python at its best. There are some lampoons which to this reviewer seemed gratuitously cruel – making fun, at length, of the King’s stutter for example.
In these febrile times, the reality is almost impossible to parody – what fiction writer would create Trump for example? In the main, the World War Two years were full of moments of genuine heroism and sacrifice in pursuit of what nobody could deny was a noble cause. Of course, there were failures and fools galore but we were not in “Lions led by Donkeys” territory. Doodle is unbalanced as satire has to be. But seventy years on I’m not sure that the target is really a legitimate one.
Review by Paddy Briggs
Doodle – The Musical! is a new all-singing-all-dancing comedy musical written by American Idol’s Andy Street and actor Jonathan Kydd, and directed by Olivier award nominee Jonathan Moore. The show is a loving pastiche of World War II action movies, with cameo impersonations including Charles Bronson, David Niven, and Sam Kydd, Jonathan’s father, who was in 240 films between 1945 and 1982 (more than any other English actor) in dozens of which he played members of the armed forces.
It is the year 1940. Britain is at war with Nazi Germany. Barnes Wallis, the eventual inventor of the world famous Bouncing Bomb (as featured in the film The Dam Busters – you know, the black and white one where the bomb bounces into the dams?) is kidnapped by the Nazis to build them a Bouncing Submarine. Consequently, a Z team of not-very-good misfits, (like in The Dirty Dozen) including a Mexican cigar salesman, a Sherlock Holmes impersonator, and a ventriloquist is recruited to go on a secret mission to discover whether the threat is real – or just a ridiculous joke. Once they’re on their way, it’s discovered that the threat is so serious, it has the potential to lose Britain the war. (CUE HUGE DOOM LADEN CHORD)
Writer Jonathan Kydd
Music Andy Street
Director Jonathan Moore
Cast Suzanna Kempner, Paul Croft, Reggie Oliver, Luke Farrugia, Evan Boutsov, Sebastain Kainth, Paul Ryan, Paul Storrier, Conor Cook and Michael Sadler.
Performance Dates January 11th 2017 – January 28th 2018
Running Time 120 mins (not including interval)
Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London SE1 8TN