Pros: A hysterical, camp and laugh out loud romp from acting tour de force, Celia Imrie
Cons: The vocals don’t quite live up to expectations
As a drama student in the 90’s, I fell in love with the show Absolutely Famous. The fashion was off the chart, the parties were outrageous and the characters were nothing like I’d ever seen or been exposed to before. Most notable to me was Claudia Bing, who worked in PR and was played masterfully by the fabulous Celia Imrie. To this day, Claudia remains one of my absolute favourite TV characters. Fast forward twenty years, and I’m now a retired actor working in PR who seems to quote Claudia Bing at least once a week! So when I heard I’d be invited to go see Celia Imrie’s new one-woman cabaret/review show, Laughing Matters, I jumped at the chance (possibly squealed).
Laughing Matters, revised and updated from its 2013 run and currently on at the wonderful St James Theatre, is an absolute hoot! I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard and got a stitch in the process. From the very second Celia appeared, running through the audience in a straight jacket, my quiet snickering to myself began, and she hadn’t even spoken a word yet! My snickering then launched into severe chuckling with Celia’s sensational performance of Thomas Meehan’s account of a hostess’s dream that a succession of guests arrive at her party, all with random three letter names. One of these, the famous Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac, insists on each arrival being formally introduced to the others. It’s as bonkers as it sounds, and Celia’s comedic timing was bang on.
Her performance of Alan Melville’s Common Talk in which a widow overlooks the night time shenanigans on Wimbledon Common, upped my severe chuckling to full blown giggling. She also performs as a campaigner against double entendres on TV, trying to persuade the BBC to to take the Nation’s mind of sex by rather focusing on hobbies. At this point, my full blown giggling turned into hearty guffawing with a stitch. These finely tuned sketches with overflowing characterisations, all under the superb direction of Fidelis Morgan, are testament to Celia’s glorious and flourishing acting career on TV, film and stage across six decades.
Anecdotes from her best selling autobiography The Happy Hoofer are sprinkled throughout the show, providing a unique opportunity to see the real Celia and hear some of her crazy tales. As the show was a cabaret, there was quite a few light-hearted and poignant songs. Celia performed these in here stride with her trademark sexiness and cheeky wink. However, I was surprised that the vocals weren’t as strong as one would expect. That said, I must say that I hardly cared. With the help of the very talented Andy Massy as her musical director, the numbers were still enormously fun to watch, and it’s the strength of Celia’s characterisations that save this section of the show.
Stand out numbers, with the support of the rather dashing and buff Tristan Temple and Matt Stevens, had to be the funny ‘Snake Charmer’, a touching Mozart diddy and the wonderful panto-styled ‘All Over the Place’ encore.
If you’re looking for a fun night out at the theatre, this show is for you. Myself (and Claudia Bing) cannot recommend it enough. Celia is down to earth, funny and extremely talented. In these current dark times, its so easy to forget that laughing really does matter!
Director: Fidelis Morgan
Music: Andy Massey
Booking Until: Sunday 17 August 2014
Box office: 0844 264 2140
Booking Link: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/book-tickets/?event=20929