Pros: The energy and enthusiasm from all of the cast.
Cons: It is almost too long, and the humour was starting to get a bit repetitive towards the end.
Tucked away around the back of Waterloo Station, the cosy Waterloo East theatre looks a bit like an air raid shelter. This is very appropriate for Doodle the Musical, which is set in the 1940s. If you think of all the war films made between 1945 and 1980, mixed in with a large dose of irreverence and general silliness, you will have the general plot.
The set immediately puts you in 1940s frame of mind, with wooden chairs and those green metal filing cabinets. There is also clever use of a screen with images complementing the action. It is easy to miss the credits at the start as they move so quickly, but it is worth trying to read them. They are reminiscent of a Morecambe and Wise play and set the tone for the evening.
World War II has just begun; enter a collection of members of ‘the master race’ who are not quite as superior as they seem to think, as they can’t keep in time with each other. Joined by a bunch of ever so polite Brits drinking tea we end up with ‘cuppas and Fokkers’ – starting to get the picture? Anyway, the inventor Barnes-Wallis is kidnapped and made to invent a bouncing Doodle U-boat bomb. A crack squad chosen by way of a talent show process is dispatched to foil the plot. The crew contains all of the usual British war film caricatures; the ‘cheeky chappie’ cockney, the token butch American, the Niven smoothie. I liked the montage sections on the screen, especially where the props and costumes in the projected image didn’t quite match what was on stage.
The songs are very funny and tuneful; I was still humming a couple on the way home, which is always a good sign. They’re belted out by the actors, some of whom have better singing voices than others. The cast of twelve doubles up on roles, requiring some quick changes and allowing the opportunity for more jokes when two characters played by the same person are required on stage. Sooz Kempner as the completely underestimated but most capable secretary is particularly strong, and got the biggest cheer at the end. I feel I should also mention Paul Croft for having the bottle to do the naked fan dance as the character Smiley. There are lots of war film jokes and references throughout, inventive use of the props and a clever mixture of styles of music.
This is a very funny show, although I realise it may not be to everyone’s taste. Also, it was almost too long, with the jokes starting to get repetitive towards the end. I would describe Doodle the Musical as an evening’s entertainment that veers between silly and very silly, with occasional moments of extreme silliness. Great fun.
Writer: Jonathan Kydd
Director: Jonathan Moore
Music: Andy Street
Box Office: 020 7928 0060
Booking Link: https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/doodle
Booking Until: 28 January 2018