The Doppel Gang

★★★

Review by Sarah Tinsley

Being a bit of a fan of the history of theatre, it was intoxicating to be taken back to the world of the music hall. Rowdy audiences, comedy acts, a cross-dressing woman. Back in the day, these were all you needed for a great night out. At the height of wartime Britain, a group of actors decide to do the unthinkable – pass themselves off as the Marx brothers. The stage is set for The Doppel Gang.

In this particular theatre, things aren’t looking so rosy. With their act lacking lustre, Cyril and Tommy have had enough. Rachel, Tommy’s long-suffering partner, is getting tired of working for a living. With Lombard, the theatre owner, in debt, and the ominous backdrop of the Blitz, things aren’t looking too amusing for this motley crew.

If there’s one thing the war-going public need, it’s a great show. And Lombard is determined to give them just that. He’ll do anything to keep his actors, turn his life around and make his dreams come true – at least as long as at gets him some money. The stage is set for a risky show; but will the audience notice they’re not the real thing? If they can pull it off, it will be the show of the century.

Littered throughout the show is witty dialogue and physical comedy, a gentle undercurrent running through the twists and turns of the story. The set is fantastic, managed with slick efficiency, with a fairly hefty number of changes and large pieces moved around by the cast. The sound work, by Terence Mann, was impressive too, with musical interludes, various sound effects and off-stage dialogue all handled impressively. The script has lots of opportunities for humour, which just needed a little more care with the timing to make them really shine. A few less scenes with people in the process of leaving might also have helped the narrative flow a little better.

The big finish is, of course, their rendition of The Marx Brothers. Not being a huge fan myself, I didn’t really know what to expect from it, other than the glasses and moustache. While it was undeniably funny, I didn’t feel that the actors had really got into their rhythm, which left the big flourish a little deflated. I’m sure as the run continues they will get into their stride, but the lines were delivered at such hectic pace, it took the audience a minute to realise something funny was happening, let alone actually laugh. A bit more confidence with the comic timing would make all the difference to this curious show, and really lift it.

Jordan Moore, especially when he morphed into Groucho Marx, was quite clearly at home with comedy, demonstrating excellent physical work and comic timing, while Rachel Hartley was impressive as the stoic yet disappointed partner to a man who was far less than she hoped for.

A quirky, light-hearted revival of a well-loved act.

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