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Please take this Takeaway musical away…

Please take this Takeaway musical away…

TakeawayI was recently invited to Stratford East’s Theatre to see what was touted as the world’s first British-Chinese musical, Takeaway, following a week in the life of a young man stuck behind a Chinese takeaway counter, obsessed with Tom Jones and dreaming of better things. Like, the chance to be the New Chinese Tom Jones. Oh, and despite being a dullard stuck behind said counter, he somehow manages to keep two girlfriends going – by lying to them, mostly.

However, the title needs revising. For a start, it really needs an exclamation mark at the end – when a musical set in a Chinese takeaway starts with a gong, you know you’re not exactly going to get a po-faced reverent look at the takeaway industry, or the mysterious people who work behind the counter.

Which is fine – the world isn’t exactly screaming for a serious dramatic look at the life of the person behind the counter – but given that a good proportion of the audience are likely to be British-Chinese, are you really sure you want to have a cliched Chinese chef character, a song mocking the fresh Chinese immigrant and a moment in which characters literally go “ching-chong ching-chong long tong” at each other? That is really going to raise the defences of the Chinese segment of the audience, even if it does provoke a very brief ripple of laughter from the rest of the audience? Race relations have such a long way to go…

The plot is a tad cliched to say the least, with a protagonist trapped in his dull life seeking a way out. Which I suppose is an advantage in that it’s saying to British-Chinese people: “Look! Your problems are the same as most people’s! Get on with it!”. But it does mean killer moments (whether they be plot or entertainment-related) are few and far between. One of which is the arrival of the cliched guardian angel, but mainly for the sheer pre-posterousness of it, coupled with the fact they just about manage to get away it.

Some of the songs deserve credit for being bombastically funny – like Golden Balls – but otherwise would remain forgettable if it weren’t for the sheer zeal of the cast in giving their all, especially Gabby Wong, Natasha Jayetileke, Gloria Onitiri. And it’s always good to see Chinese performers on stage, especially from the older generation who have literally hung on in there. It’s just a shame better material for them didn’t exist.

Ultimately, will you leave this musical with a smile on your face? Well, assuming you don’t elect to leave early – as a significant proportion of the audience did the night I was there – then, no. You’ll get a puzzled scowl instead as you wonder who it was aimed at. Still, at least there’s a Chinese buffet opposite the theatre.

Takeaway is playing till 9 July. Other reviews have also come in from, and Lucy Sheen

"Put the f'king lotion in the basket…"

"Put the f'king lotion in the basket…"

You may have seen a musical clip from the frankly genius idea of Silence of the Lambs: The Musical set to Lego:

Anyway, it turns out the musical is coming to London mid-January! Who’s with me? We can all wear night-vision goggles and adopt cod-Virginian accents! (or surgical masks and cod-posh-Welsh accents)…

Just how bad is The Producers?

Just how bad is The Producers?

You’d think that a musical that had won more Tony Awards than anything else, that’s pretty much sold-out and been raved about by everyone for eons would make for a reasonable transition to film? Especially when it was based on a film to begin with?

But no. Miss R and I had the misfortune to see The Producers (2006 film version) and it was a very rare occasion when we both agreed on just how terrible it was.

For a start, the actors involved seemed to have forgotten they were in a film, not a live theatre production. Thus Lane and Broderick spent the entire film archly over-acting and mugging for the camera. This is not particularly attractive in a 70mm film format with optional zooms.

The production team also seemed to have forgotten they were making a film, and thus, had a camera which they could presumably move. Imagine watching a film where the camera barely moves – it just zooms in and out, and pans left or right, or cuts to a terrible over-mugging reaction shot. For two hours.

While not all films need to have characters you like, you’d think that even for a farcical comedy the characters ought to have something likable about them, or at least something familiar. Not these characters. The only ones I didn’t want to punch were the Nazis and the bimbo Swedish secretary. And you don’t get to say that very often.

Still, fair play to Uma Thurman. The last time I saw her she was a butt-kicking sword-fighting vengenance warrior, and now here she is as a dancing bimbo. Quite bizarre. I’m starting to realise why Barry Norman was so in love with her.

But the songs. Oh God, the songs. And why on earth did the film/musical never flipping end? Did we really need a recap from Nathan Lane in his jail cell of the entire film up to that point? Why are the Producers recreating their crime from *within* the jail without anyone noticing, and putting them back on Broadway?

I really hope the next film I see is a good one, or it could be horrible flashbacks to the last death of cinema in the summer of 1997 again…

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