REVIEW: Remember Jim, Gala Theatre, Durham

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It’s quite simple to tell if something is a comedy – you hear an audience laugh, and this production by Theatre of Moths did exactly what it promised.

Washington-based Neil Armstrong has penned, directed and stars in this hugely entertaining dark and mysterious piece, drawing on his experiences of 25 years in pantomime.

With an excellent cast around him – ex-RSC Peter Peverley, David Tarkenter and Christina Berriman Dawson, who plays numerous minor female roles – the action takes place back stage at a rubbish pantomime. Indeed, Armstrong’s panto performance is deemed to be “forgettable” by a critic. However, his character reasons, if it was so forgettable why was it mentioned? Thus, he concludes, it must have been memorable.

There’s lots of quirky humour throughout as Armstrong’s character Ben takes a pop at the pretentiousness of “real” theatre like Becket’s Waiting For Godot and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Peverley as Lucuis and Tarkenter as the eponymous Jim complete a triumvirate of top-notch actors, who go through a gamut of emotions as Jim re-enters their lives and holds them hostage for a life-shattering event they were responsible for 25 years ago when all three were at college together.

Back then, Jim believed he and the love of his life, Gillian, were to be the new Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. However, their college performance of Macbeth was cruelly spoilt by someone putting superglue on the dagger and Jim almost stabbing Gillian, ripping her clothes.

A laughing stock and, with his acting career in tatters, Jim’s been drug addled and unemployable ever since. His mental instability reaches a crescendo when he learns of the recent death of Gillian by a drugs overdose and he wants revenge on the dagger gluers.

The dark edge is smoothed by uproariously funny squeaky boots, a pantomime horse and lots of laugh out loud humour throughout, including the audience singing Music Man. Oh, and there’s a bomb.

A cracking night’s entertainment.

ED WAUGH