I’ve said this lots of times before but you can’t spoof a spoof – when written in 1885 The Mikado was already a parody, satirising British Imperial politics and institutions by transposing them to a fictionalised Japan, and lampooning the fashion for orientalism.
So why doesn’t the current production of Lettice and Lovage at the Menier Chocolate Factory push my buttons? I fear it suffers from Forty Years On Syndrome – a circumstance whereby even with what seems like dream casting of Richard Wilson as an irascible headmaster, Alan Bennett’s masterly first play comes up lifeless and irrelevant at Chichester.
I am inordinately fond of Forty Years On. In only my second ever trip to London, my mother took me to see the original production the year I was fifteen and therefore readily able to identify with the serge-trousered schoolboys it features in their end-of-term entertainment to mark the retirement of a long-serving headmaster.
The ultimate ‘backstage musical’ 42nd Street lifted America from the depression, and its timely arrival at Drury Lane in such majestic style is still an evening of total escapism, total delight as you share the hopes and dreams of fresh-off-the-bus Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse, bloody marvellous) breaking into the Broadway big-time via Sheena Easton’s broken ankle.