Thursday, 6 October 2016

FOUR STAR REVIEW - Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory


It may have been written 40 years ago but Tom Stoppard’s play Travesties with its ponderings on art and politics, their functions and attributes, seems as relevant now as it ever was.
A new production of this somewhat wordy play has just opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory and it is a joy from start to finish.
Indeed it is a shame that it is a play not more often revived because when it’s done this well it’s an absolute joy.
It has a somewhat complicated plot but suffice to say that it centres on a retired, aged and somewhat vain British diplomat, Henry Carr.
Switching between the present and the past he muses on the meetings he had in Zurich during the inter war years with the likes of avant grade artist Tristan Tzara, novelist James Joyce and Lenin. 
Interspersed with this are his memories of staging a production of The Importance of Being Earnest, in which he was “not Earnest but the other one”.
As is a feature Stoppard’s plays, Travesties is full of discussion and debate, much of the time tending to be quick and complicated. 
Here it is Henry Carr’s contact with the three men, particularly Tzara and Joyce, with whom he has a war of words and which romps along at quite a pace - in fact sometimes dizzyingly so.
However, in many ways you really don’t need to understand what they are discussing, rather just sit back and enjoy these gloriously fresh and frisky exchanges.
And as well as these wordy debates Stoppard treats us all to whole scenes made up entirely of either limericks, song, dance and even a brilliant verbal sparring between Cecily and Gwendoline.
The set too deserves special mention because of the attention to detail including a stuffed beaver hiding behind the arm chair. 
Directed by Patrick Marber, and boasting a stellar cast, led by Tom Hollander, fantastic as Henry Carr, and with Freddie Fox who dazzles as Tzara, it is a production that fizzes with energy, pizzazz and laugh out loud comedy. In short, a real treat.

Travesties is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street until November 19. Tickets cost  from £29.50. Visit or call the box office on 020 7378 1713 for full listings.

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