Wyndham’s Theatre, London – until 11 January 2019
The woman sat behind me at Wyndham’s Theatre for The Man In The White Suit had a very distinctive laugh. It was the sort of laugh that is infectious, it made me chuckle more than once.
She was obviously enjoying Sean Foley’s adaptation of the 1950s Ealing comedy which stars Stephen Mangan as clever but hapless scientist Sidney and Kara Tointon as Daphne, a posh, mill owner’s daughter.
The physical comedy and slapstick, in particular, made her guffaw as did the way Daphne walked with an exaggerated, seductive swagger. Loud chuckles. Sidney’s ‘farting’ lab equipment, explosive experiments and the way food and drink seemed to gravitate towards crotches were also afforded loud chuckles.
The story centres around his invention of an indestructible, dirt-proof cloth. Unable to absorb coloured dye, Sidney has the cloth made into a white suit to demonstrate its unique qualities.
However, the excitement and clamour for the rights to his invention soon turn to anger when the mill workers and mill owners realise what it means for the cloth-making industry. Suddenly it is Sidney’s silence people want not his invention.
Michael Taylor’s set design has some clever, magic-box like features – there is a particularly inventive scene when Daphne is driving her sports car along country lanes while Sidney clings on for dear life. In fact, Daphne is a bright, modern spot in the play, sexy, sassy, smart and independent, more than the stereotypical love interest you’d expect of the era.
Another bright spot is a neatly choreographed ballroom dance sequence in which Tointon shows off the skills she picked up on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing while Mangan’s expertise at physical comedy comes to the fore.
Foley has also injected the odd contemporary quip about proroguing parliament, Brexit and capitalism which landed well with the audience.
Sue Johnston and Stephen Mangan in The Man in the White Suit. Photo: Nobby Clark
But these are rare teeth in what is otherwise a tame comedy that is very much of its time. Fine if you like that sort of thing, I know my dad would have, as did the woman sat behind.
In the end, it was her laughter that mostly provoked my own chuckles, the rest of the comedy, like dirt on Sidney’s suit, didn’t stick.
Some clever staging and moments but otherwise The Man In The White Suit is very run of the mill and I’m giving ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
It is two hours and 10 minutes long with an interval and is at the Wyndhams Theatre until 11 January, for more details and tickets head to the official website.
You might also like to read:
Review: ‘Master Harold’…and the Boys, National Theatre – lessons and losses ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, until 17 December.
From the archive: A rehearsed reading of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Death in Whitbridge
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