Said it before so let’s say it again and this time hope they put it on the posters: “Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam is the best ‘gay play’ since My Night With Reg” – a clever sharply-observed comedy riffing on gender fluidity with dry wit and crackling dialogue and which has now set new standards for the genre.
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.
In The Life, drug-dealing Guys and rent-by-the-hour Dolls walk a side of 42nd Street far shadier than the tapdancing one at Drury Lane. The daily grit and the nightly grind are underpinned with a spectacularly revitalized score from Cy Coleman fusing jazz and blues with his musical theatre roots, and some spunky new dialogue from still-got-it-baby veteran Michael Blakemore who directed the Broadway version a mere 38 years ago.