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Bad Ladz – Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre

This show has the feel of a television situation comedy, one of those ones with canned laughter, to be enjoyed for the purposes of light entertainment and almost absolutely nothing else. Delve too deeply into the narrative and you’ll find that it’s all rather implausible, but the improbability is precisely where a lot of the show’s humour comes from. It is therefore not only permissible but to one’s advantage to go with the flow and revel in the absurdity. One would not, for instance, reasonably expect to find amusement in what is essentially a hostage situation. But context is key: once who has been ‘kidnapped’ (note the inverted commas) and precisely why has been established, it’s essentially all to do with British English idioms being taken too literally.

BadLadzIt’s not, mind you, completely removed from contemporary socio-economic issues – quite a few of the characters’ actions are money related, and there’s a sense of pent-up frustration on Darren’s (Jay Mailer) part that leads him to tie up his own friend Parashar (Nicholas Prasad). But his plan of action was sketchy to say the least, and once ungagged, Parashar explains to Mickey (Freddy Elletson) that terms and conditions for a short-term loan (of a relatively nominal amount) were agreed, and it would be another week before those terms could be considered breached.

Darren has also brought along Tony (Carl Stone), much to Mickey’s displeasure (not much explanation as to why was given) – and a running gag, pardon the pun, about Tony’s silent but deadly flatulence, started to wear thin after a while. An initial attempt by the trio to conceal their identity to the kidnapped party fails spectacularly in their panicked endeavours to resolve a crisis of Darren’s making. Time and again the humanity of the characters shines through, mostly in profuse apologies to one another, but also through what becomes a comedy of errors.

Completing the set of on-stage characters is Raj (Maanuv Thiara), a cousin of Parashar, aggrieved and aggressive because of his own financial troubles, of a considerable magnitude – Thiara does well to portray a fairly one-dimensional character as someone that won’t be messed around with. A brief moment of vulnerability, however, is enough to shatter his tough guy image, and once he takes his leave of the rest of the group, a plot twist ensures a happy ending of sorts.

Stone’s Tony was the stand-out for me, raising laughs from the audience with random outspoken thoughts (rather like Charles Cholmondeley in the musical Operation Mincemeat suddenly asking if a newt has a penis). Taking an instruction from Mickey more literally than was intended had pivotal and comical consequences, and I can’t help thinking that if this were a more serious play, there might have been considerations about neurodiversity.

A soundtrack of 1980s chart music songs, including tunes by Annie Lennox, and ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell (a cover of a 1964 single by Gloria Jones, as I’m sure would have been pointed out to me if I didn’t mention it here) permeate proceedings. Some inter-scene movements and rhythms – it would be a stretch to call them dances – drove the story forward whilst giving the audience something else to smile and laugh about. The play might have an acquired sense of humour, but this boisterous, briskly paced and bighearted production is just the tonic for theatregoers in need of some laughs.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Mischief Theatre’s Niall Ransome brings you a dark new comedy “Bad Ladz”.

Having recently lost his mum, Mickey and his best mate Darren are tired of the little respect they have on their estate. And when Mickey finds out that Darren has kidnapped the little brother of the local lunatic they are forced to commit and go all in! And all in his Nana’s bungalow! With the help of their friend Tony, they struggle to figure a way out of the ever-increasing dangerous situation they’ve landed themselves in.

Bad Ladz is at Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre from Tuesday 11th July, 2023 to Saturday 15th July, 2023.

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