DEVILISHLY SILLY, BUT NOT STUPID
Satan (Adam Long in plastic horns) came up to earth in human form in 1964 because he was “excited with what was going on in musical theatre”, notably West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof. His human mother remembers him always singing and dancing, though he did get bullied about his tail. Now fifty, he is hanging around in the office of his equally camp manager, Schifrin (Mark Caven), breaking into the odd soft-shoe (well, cloven-hoof) shuffle and pestering him about a one-night Sondheim songbook gig at the Palladium. Only Sondheim won’t give permission.
That’s the conceit of this hour-long amusement: together they
plead down the phone, bicker, reconcile, and make a ridiculous lifetime-achievement video, including Satan’s X-Factor-style sob story about a blighted childhood and how badly God treated him. They sing the Public Domain Medley, all they’re allowed (like Daisy Daisy) but Satan keeps trying to break into Send in the Clowns on the grounds that the Jermyn is licensed for cabaret and incidental music. A panicking Schifrin points out that if he’s in costume it counts as theatre, which is a different licence. Satan says they’re his own horns not a costume, but Schifrin cites a Performing Rights Society ruling that in a landmark case Nosferatu the Vampire’s teeth were deemed costume…
Well, I relate that gag so that you get the idea. Adam Long – one of the founders of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and lately reator of one of its best spinoffs, the Complete Dickens, has put together this parodic tribute to the yearnings, splendours and hissy-fits of musical theatre pros: toe-tapping neurosis, pleasure, absurdity and dodgy rhymes. Schifrin mourns his sole client’s unreasonable ambition – “I coulda got him loads of regional work” – and finally drops his affable optimism to snarl “You’re fifty years old with horns and hooves – no, you can’t play Tony in West Side Story!”.
The show is, as they sing, not “Something too rational / on the main stage of the National”. Yet there is a moment of real feeling – as the old Reduced Shakespeare used to drop in – when thwarted Satan grieves for the Sondheim numbers he must never sing. “He’s special. You know he is. It’s like leaves in the sunsine…like he knows something about you – you wanna cling to it because it’s perfect, but it keeps changing…music like water, music like light”.
I like that. And there’s a happy ending, sort of. Well, a compromise. That’s showbiz. It runs as a separate show after AWAY FROM HOME (see above) which makes not a bad evening. Silly, but not stupid.
box office 020 7287 2875 to 29 march