Pros: Comedic genius from Jake Urry and inventive stage direction.
Cons: An occasionally weak script.
A play within a play and characters within characters. Dominic Hedges has made a brave and inventive attempt at the monumental job of writing a play about the legendary Marx brothers. He overcomes the danger of ‘impersonation’ by setting a play within his play.
Set in WWII, Jake Urry plays Lombard, a theatre manager whose theatre is crumbling around him, both financially and literally. When the Blitz forces Lombard and his actors, played by Jordan Moore, Peter Stone and Rachel Hartley, underground they discover an unpublished Marx brothers script, which might just be the answer to their creative and financial stalemate. All of the acting is convincing but a special mention must go to Jake Urry, his performances both as Lombard and as Harpo Marx are captivating, funny and astute.
While I found The Doppel Gang extremely enjoyable, I could never quite relax for fear of something going wrong. It never did but there was a nervousness about the performance. I will put this down to the amount of press in the audience. On the whole, the performance was slick – it is evident the cast have spent a long time practising their Marx brothers sketches and I think once they relax into it it will feel even more natural.
The set design is ingenious, with the cast moving parts of it around to create different settings within the theatre – we move seamlessly from backstage to on stage to an underground bunker. The whole production is quite a visual accomplishment. Terrence Mann does a fantastic job of giving us different perspectives of the theatre. Where The Doppel Gang is lacking is in the script itself. In the second half, the Marx brothers are brought to life, while side stories of the actors are developed ‘backstage’. The idea is good but there is not quite enough time for these side story-lines to develop. Consequently, they feel like an afterthought and detract from the well-judged, physical comedy of the Marx brothers.
Rather than being biographical, this ‘comedy about a comedy’ manages to successfully transport the American humour of the Marx brothers into a very English setting. The Doppel Gang is already charming and funny, but it also has lots of potential. A few tweaks to the script and a little more ease from the actors and this show will be something really special. With America and Britain gripped in political upheaval, I would highly recommend going to see this lighthearted play, which encapsulates the difference between our countries’ sense of humour. This is a wonderful effort by young actors and a young writer giving an inventive, comedic nod to the timeless comedy of the Marx brothers.
Author: Dominic Hedges
Director: Terence Mann
Producer: Just Some Theatre Company
Lighting Design: Mitchell Reeve
Box Office: 020 3841 6611
Booking Link: https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-doppel-gang
Booking Until: 11 February 2017