Leicester Square Lounge, London – until 20 February 2016
Marty Feldman was a unique comedy turn who could have been a giant. His distinctive boggled eye face and wild hair set him apart visually and as a peer of some of the late 20th century comedy greats he wrote for, and performed with, the best. Jeepers Creepers, written by Robert Ross, looks at Feldman away from the stage and studio, focussing instead on the philanderer and his devoted, even if humiliated, spouse Lauretta.
With Terry Jones at the helm expectations ran high – yes, one knows that Feldman was taken tragically young and that his life was difficult – but we also know that he was a gifted comedian. So somewhere in a play about a comic, directed by the man who with Monty Python’s Life Of Brian gave the world one of its funniest ever movies, there’s a hope that along with the poignancy, there may also be some belly laughs too – and Ross has certainly tried, interjecting Feldman-esque gags along the way.
But ultimately and to borrow a line from the play, Jeepers Creepers “does to comedy what the RAF did to Dresden” – and it all makes for a three act offering that’s more endurance than entertainment. Notwithstanding the confines of the Leicester Square Theatre’s basement Studio, Jones’ direction plods. The two actors, to their credit however, are magnificent. David Boyle captures the essential mania of the man, in a performance that convinces and which must be exhausting. Likewise Rebecca Vaughan as Lauretta, drawn by the deepest of loves to a man whose infidelities continuously break her heart, also puts in a fabulous turn.
But ultimately there are neither tears nor guffaws to be found here. Jeepers Creepers makes for a laboured drama-documentary that shows only Feldman’s dark side and offers nothing of his genius to today’s younger audiences who may know little, if anything, of the man. An opportunity wasted.
Runs until 20th February