Pros: A variety of Dickensian characters merrily bounce off each other.
Cons: It’s annoyingly short: another 20 minutes might have provided a stronger finish.
Camden High Street throbbed with its usual atmosphere as my companion and I made our way to the Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms. The venue has an excellent menu and I would thoroughly recommend the scampi! I feel duty bound to mention the food as the play imagines a Victorian gastronomy challenge. Presented as part of the Black Box Festival, No White Mongoose for Wilma is the odd, though engaging tale of Ms Wilma Cruikshank, Mrs Carshalton and Mrs Zizou: Victorian ladies who lunch. They are evidently fond of experiment, as their menus have included the most exotic dishes from around the world. But now the possible use of a mongoose might prove to be a deal breaker for Ms Cruikshank. Wilma was apparently a contemporary of Charles Darwin and the first woman to write a complete description of a fossilised dinosaur. All this pales in comparison to reputedly eating the shrunken heart of King Louis XII, so I did wonder why she would have struggled with a mongoose.
Thus begins an entertaining, albeit brief account of how and why the mongoose became such a traumatic symbol in Wilma’s life. Helen Minassian as Wilma strides around with a grand presence in the best tradition of stage matriarchs; Angus Chisholm as Reginald is the loyal butler with a job description that includes human dartboard; Grace Cookey-Gam as Mrs Carshalton witters attractively; Miranda Harrison as Mrs Zizou is a formidable opponent in the culinary stakes; while Daniel Osgood is a star turn as the bumbling Mandrake smitten by Wilma. He tries to woo her with a mongoose seemingly unaware of her aversion and we soon learn that one such animal played a part in the demise of Wilma’s beloved Bertie. This allegedly happened at the Upper Snodsbury County Fayre, but I personally think the mongoose was framed.
The play is a solid piece that works reasonably well within the confines of its limited timeframe. But after 45 minutes, I couldn’t help thinking it was begging for more detail which would have given the play a more satisfying finale. Nevertheless, the cast is convincing, getting the most out of characters that may have otherwise been one dimensional. An excellent pub venue, showcasing an original play: No White Mongoose for Wilma is well worth catching next time around.
Author: Darren Brealey
Director: Dimitry Devdariani
Producer: DoesGood Productions
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.