Home » London Theatre Reviews » Don’t Take The Pith! at Drayton Arms Theatre | Review

Don’t Take The Pith! at Drayton Arms Theatre | Review

A cast of nine in a pub theatre production is impressive – and is larger, as you will be aware, than some West End casts these days. This show is silly with a capital ‘S’, to the point where it simply won’t appeal to everyone – some will think jokes are taken too far, not in terms of gross offence, but in sheer repetition. The script is remarkably self-conscious, establishing early on that it is, in essence, a work of fiction, and should therefore be taken as such. There are, for instance, some portrayals of ‘locals’ in a faraway colonial island back in the days when the sun never set on the British Empire that might be misinterpreted or misconstrued. But throw in the word ‘fictional’ into the mix, and it is quickly understood that it is indeed erroneous anyway.

Richard Rycroft as Lord Peter de Meur and Ola Teniola as Kanaka in Don't Take The Pith! Photo credit: Wala Arts.
Richard Rycroft as Lord Peter de Meur and Ola Teniola as Kanaka in Don’t Take The Pith! Photo credit: Wala Arts.

It logically follows, then, it is almost impossible to be offended by Don’t Take The Pith!. Perhaps the only just cause for taking umbrage with the show is in the character of Maud Pauper (Abigail Dawn), Lord Hardcastle’s servant, who speaks in a ‘northern’ accent, which Lady Susan Bloom (Helen Bang) distinguishes from ‘English’. Oof. There isn’t, of course, a singular ‘northern’ accent, but again, such technicalities were all part of suspending disbelief, even more than usual, at the theatre doors.

In the end, neither tribal steward Kanaka (Ola Teniola) nor the tribal ruler Adiratna (Billie Vee) turn out to be anything other than sophisticated and intelligent people. Elsewhere, it wasn’t clear to any reasonable extent what a ‘pith’ even was. Lord de Meur (Richard Rycroft) was more ebullient than most about going for a pith – again, whatever that was – though the dialogue revels more in double entendres about, say, holes that needed filling, than getting carried away with the play’s title.

Contemporary references permeate the dialogue, some of which are a bit contrived but are nonetheless humorous. Light entertainment is very much the name of the game here: as Lady de Meur puts it, “There’s no plot, this is a comedy”. Come to think of it, she’s right, overall – there’s a narrative of sorts, but not really one worth saying much, if anything, about. Things go missing, and they are found again, as though one had lost and recovered one’s car keys or the remote control. There was something said about Nicholas Parsons that I couldn’t get my head around, and then he’s never mentioned again. Stuff the plot, it’s all about the laughs. Thankfully, they come regularly enough.

The dialogue is delivered at pace, which proved challenging for the actors on occasion, though there’s no reason why the show wouldn’t become increasingly polished as the run progresses. It’s the sort of show audiences need during these still rather difficult times, a short and sweet evening that is agreeable and fun, jolly escapism from everything going on in the world today.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Maud Pauper ABIGAIL DAWN
Lord Sebastian Hardcastle PETER RAE
Lady Susan Bloom HELEN BANG
Lord Peter de Meur RICHARD RYCROFT
Lady Fleur de Meur LAURA MORGAN
Doctor Frenchman DAVID FURLONG
Kanaka, a tribal steward OLA TENIOLA
Adiratna, a tribal queen BILLIE VEE
Not Kevin LUCYANNE FLETCHER

Written by PETER RAE
Directed by HELEN BANG
Assistant Director ABIGAIL BANG
Acting Stage Manager LUCYANNE FLETCHER
Set and Costume Design HELEN BANG
Lighting Design JAMES DENNY
Sound Design PETER RAE
Technical Operator and Assistant Designer DANIEL McDERMOTT

“I say, you haven’t taken the pith, have you old boy?”

Two beloved returning characters… A colonial outpost… A missing talisman… A tentative peace with the local tribe and lots of stuff that isn’t all worthy and important…

Canonbie Productions presents DON’T TAKE THE PITH!
21 May to 1 June 2024
https://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/

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