DEATH SHIP 666 – Jermyn St Theatre, WC1

BEARS!  THOUSANDS OF THEM!  (well, two paws from the wings)

“You know what they say – if you upset bears theyll kill everyone you love!”  cries the demented flop-fringed architect.  “Thats not a thing!” scornfully retorts the paranoid female mental patient, locked in the ship’s bilge as it sinks.   Its a good line.  So is  “Bears! thousands of them!”   when uttered in panic aboard a sinking ship in mid-Atlantic previously untroubled by ursine invaders.

But in this shouty 75-minute melodrama you have to truffle for the good bits, like a bear yourself.    It was a hit at the Edinburgh fringe,   and is created with such youthful gusto by twins Michael Patrick and Paul Clarkson , with Gemma Hurley,  that you can’t hate it.  But it would help to be drunk, or getting that way , and young enough to shriek happily at the broadest of joke situations. There is a discount for Christmas parties, so that will happen.

The idea, nicely set up by jitterbugging cast members in sailor suits at the entrance, is that a doomed voyage sets out with the necessary central-casting passengers – a rich villainous couple on an insurance scam, a troubled architect with a tragic past, a ten year old prodigy, a paranoid woman on psychiatrists orders,  a mad one eyed captain and an evil electrician (“John deVille Crapwirer”)   and his love-starved bride.   The Titanic movie music swells  and fades throughout, though in a raucous musical mashup near the end we also get Phantom, Les Mis and Sondheim references.  Mattias Penman as The Architect hurls his hilarious quiff around to good effect, and Rachel Parris is particularly funny as the love interest.

Its problem for the post Fringe audience, though, is being too one-note and shouty, never giving a joke a moment to breathe and grow.  Holly Hobbie (Carrie Marx) plays the ten-year-old detective with panache but the gag gets plain irritating.  Still, there are moments of slapstick courtship and Poseidon-Venture staggering to enjoy. Even if , an hour in, you do rather end up on the side of the bears…

box office   0207 287 2875   to 15 Dec

rating:  three  3 Meece Rating


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