Directed by Thea Sharrock
Pros: A rare chance to see DeVito and Griffiths on stage, and both are on great form.
Cons: Doesn’t actually deliver as many laughs as other comedies on at the moment.
Our Verdict: Not essential viewing, but very enjoyable. Definitely go if you’re a hardcore fan of either actors.
The first thought that will probably cross your mind as the curtain goes up for The Sunshine Boys will be, ‘Danny DeVito is really so tiny!’ and this will quickly be followed by, ‘I’m watching Danny DeVito on stage!’.
No doubt most people will flock to see this play for the opportunity to see DeVito alongside Richard Griffiths; two absolute greats, and to be honest, that’s a good enough reason. Both give distinctively brilliant performances as chalk and cheese retired double-act Willy Clarke and Al Lewis, aka, ‘The Sunshine Boys’. Griffiths, playing Al, is a gentler soul but nevertheless manages to rattle Willy’s nerves working him into an absolute rage, especially when it comes to the placing of chairs for their sketch. Not that it takes much to work DeVito’s character into a fury. DeVito’s performance is literally explosive as the spurned other half of the Vaudeville act and he delivers that old school New York banter so very well, much to the delight of us Brits. There’s great back and forth exchange between him and his nephew Ben Silverman, played by Adam Levy, who is desperately trying to look after his stubborn uncle whilst re-uniting the The Sunshine Boys for one last show after 11 years.
I could write about DeVito and Griffiths all day as they really are great actors and worthy of the place they occupy among the industry’s best loved. So it’s particularly special to see them in their mature years still putting so much into their work. Before this turns into a tribute to them however, I should move on.
There are some really big laughs in this play, but director Thea Sharrock has also paid close attention to how the two characters come to terms with old age and leaving behind the glory days. There’s a really strong element of nostalgia throughout, heightened by the actors’ own illustrious careers.
Whilst watching, I did feel as though the secondary characters, namely Silverman and the nurse that comes to look after Willy in the final act, were a little overrated at times. Thinking about it though, perhaps this was a deliberate decision to bring out more of Clarke and Lewis’ characters and in all honesty it didn’t really bother me. What did concern me on the other hand, was the length of the play – at 2 hours 45 minutes it is a bit too long. This is definitely a preference thing and I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from going to see it due to the length. We like our comedy with sharp, quick delivery and this had just a few too many scripted pauses for our liking.
We know that this show will get many rave reviews but we felt the need to be completely honest about the production, away from the obvious appeal of the two leads. It definitely made us laugh out loud in places, and I did get a lump in my throat towards the end. However, our gut feeling is that whilst it is certainly a good production, it doesn’t deliver anything startlingly special.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
The Sunshine Boys runs at the Savoy Theatre until 28th July 2012.
Box Office: 0844 871 7687 or book online at http://www.sunshineboystheplay.com/ticket-information/