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Crimplene Millionaire, Ovalhouse Theatre

Boogaloo Stu

Directed by Emma Kilby
★★
Pros: The game show format of this production is a great idea and produces lots of laughs. There are plenty of interesting facts about the political, economic and sexual climate of the 1970s and the audience participation is fun.
Cons: It isn’t cohesive and misses a real opportunity to use the concept to maximum effect. After about forty five minutes it is a bit predictable and the humour at times is intentionally cringe worthy.
Our Verdict: A clever concept that doesn’t reach its full potential in making a statement about a decade of political, social and economic turmoil. However, at times it is hilarious, the audience participation is lots of fun and it will be a different show every night!
Courtesy of the Ovalhouse
Crimplene Millionaire is one of the Couterculture 50 productions, celebrating fifty years of theatre at the Ovalhouse. The decade is the 1970s and this is captured with perfection in the set design and props that greet the audience on arrival at the Ovalhouse’s Upstairs theatre. Orange and brown decor and bubble writing make up the life size game board spiralling around a revolving Orville puppet. Enter Derek Daniels (Boogaloo Stu), our game show host for the evening, resplendent in a flaired, floral crimplene suit with long grey locks, a Magnum style tash and a comb over. The audience divides into teams, chooses a counter from a selection of iconic 1970s pieces (my team was white dog poo!) and rolls the giant dice to commence the game.
We take turns to move around the board, and where we land determines the aspect of 70s political, social or sexual culture that is revealed by an audio visual clip on the black and white telly, a song performed by Derek himself (which we all join in with) or illustrative props including a men’s magazine and Angel Delight (oops – not at the same time!). We learn of sexual liberation and its opposition by Mary Woodhouse, Thatcher’s milk snatching politics, hyperinflation, miners’ strikes, the three day week and power cuts among other things. It is a great format and ‘Derek’ works hard to deliver a lot of laughs to which the audience was receptive and participated with some enthusiasm.
Whilst there is no doubt it is funny and salient, the delivery is very disjointed. There is an opportunity to really highlight the contrast between the trenchant cultural commentary and the politically incorrect game show banter that is left hanging. As the game show is random, the unscripted elements lack a thread and fall flat at times which undermines the impact that is glimpsed throughout. At about forty five minutes in we seemed to run out of steam, and as it takes so long to move around the board, concerns over the length of the show emerge. There are also some moments, best left to the imagination (let’s just say I can no longer think of a Womble in the same way again!) which are gauche and cringe worthy – this is intentionally uncomfortable and not particularly pleasant.
There are some really enjoyable aspects of playing Crimplene Millionaire. The authentic 70s set up and astute commentary are a blast and there is certainly a lot of laughter. It is a strong idea that feels somewhat underdeveloped though, and the delivery needs tightening up to ensure the energy doesn’t wane and the audience stays engaged. Boogaloo Stu’s camped up character is consistent and clever, but I feel the confrontational humour is unnecessary and alienated me from the decade I grew up in (yes I am that old!). That said, it will be a different show every night depending on the roll of the dice.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Crimplene Millionaire runs at Ovalhouse until 9th February 2013.
Box Office: 020 7582 7680 or book online at http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/booktickets/Crimplene

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