REVIEW: Martha, Josie and The Chinese Elvis, Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, Highgate

PUBLISHED: 17:16 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:11 07 September 2010

Three star rating What do a sub-standard karaoke Elvis, family reunions and sexual inhibitions have in common? Leaving Charlotte Jones s play, you ll probably be sti

REVIEW: Martha, Josie and

The Chinese Elvis, Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, Highgate

Three star rating

What do a sub-standard karaoke Elvis, family reunions and sexual inhibitions have in common?

Leaving Charlotte Jones's play, you'll probably be still looking for an answer.

Yet Jones's work should not be lightly dismissed. She has created six, mostly eccentric, characters, who are wonderfully alluring in their own right.

Witnessing them journey through an evening of personal demon-exorcising creates a definite feel-good factor within the audience.

Josie, a 50-year-old dominatrix, is greeted with two birthday surprises.

The first comes in the form of an Oriental rent-an-Elvis, who arrives hoping to liven up her evening.

Instead, he ventures very close to permanently ruining some of The King's hits.

Most of the audience wanted him to stay and continue the set because Benedict Theocleous (Elvis) feigns a shoddy impersonator with total perfection.

Josie's second surprise is something of a bombshell when long-lost daughter Louise returns from a seven-year absence.

While her mildly disabled twin, Brenda-Marie, appears delighted with the reunion, Josie remains uninterested.

Sickened by her mother's immoral earnings, Louise voices a short speech, vilifying her mother.

But as the two clash, the play begins to fall into the realms of predictability.

Meanwhile, Martha, a cleaner and an ardent obsessive, spends the evening releasing disgust at the filthiness of the modern world. Yet she can do nothing to repel Lionel, who has to be considered among the creepiest of men.

For all the quirkiness of the characters, they fail to work towards the same destination and offer a piece of definitive theatre.

Instead, we are left with a script riddled with cliches, inevitability and vacuous sub-plots.

A preferable evening might have been a series of monologues or duologues, such is the excellence of some of the character-driven actors.

Both Sarah Whitehouse (Brenda-Marie) and Esther Shelmerdine (Louise) breathe life into dull moments and inject much needed energy into the proceedings.

Rene Butler

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