Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 11 February 2017
Dominic Hedges has written a light-hearted show but it also has a strong emotional core that really hits home.
Set during the Second World War, The Doppel Gang follows a company of aspiring actors – who are unfortunately not having any success until they happen to stumble across a number of unperformed Marx Brothers sketches.
It is a relatively straightforward story so it is slightly bewildering that it takes a while to really get going. The first half is all about setting up the discovery of these sketches, but it includes a slightly too long sequence involving a broken light and an increasingly frustrated theatre manager – fun to watch but doesn’t help to set up the rest of the story.
There is no denying that the first act has its funny moments, but it is definitely the second half when the cast get a chance to relive the Marx Brothers comedy that things really perk up. Filled with slapstick and more energy it seems the entire cast have plenty to enjoy and make the most of it.
Aside from the comedy, director Terence Mann manages to draw out the fact the comedy is used as a way to escape the terror of the Second World War – but is brought shockingly home again by the unexpected ending. Mann also reveals how times were difficult for everyone working in theatres at that time – particularly men who were expected to fight for their country, with one character more than any other particularly feeling that guilt.
The cast of four perform well, even if their characters could use further development in the writing to help the audience understand their backgrounds and why they ended up in this theatre company in the first place. Rachel Hartley delivers an excellently sharp performance in her attempts to keep the men under control, while Jake Urry is wonderful as the abrupt, exasperated and frustrated theatre manager trying to keep everything held together so he can pay his debts.
Overall, the whole production is very poignant and pays tribute to theatre effectively but it could also use a bit more energy and pace to make the comic moments stand out even more. Just Some Theatre have hit have a great show, but it just seems a bit slight at the moment to make much of an impact. A light hearted fun show to watch.
The Doppel Gang continues to play at the Tristan Bates Theatre until the 11th February. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-doppel-gang