REVIEW: NOEL AT NOEL – John Michael Swinbank sings Noel Coward, New End Theatre Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 10:32 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:47 07 September 2010

Two star rating Noel Coward was and still is a national English treasure. The very model of a sartorially elegant sophisticate with the clipped perfect diction and the witty

NOEL AT NOEL

- John Michael Swinbank sings Noel Coward

New End Theatre

Hampstead

Two star rating

Noel Coward was and still is a national English treasure. The very model of a sartorially elegant sophisticate with the clipped perfect diction and the witty timing that many have tried to copy - and very few have even come near to.

Therefore it is strange that an Australian from 300 miles north of Perth in Western Australia should decide that it is his metier to do an impersonation of the Master. He has the services of a great piano player - Tim Cunniffe - but, with the best will in the world, I cannot possibly endorse this as a true impression of the man who is probably the most impersonated person in this country.

In addition to some brief, and rather trivial anecdotes about Coward, he tells the story of his own life in much more detail.

As a child, he had this strange predilection for Coward and even acquired an ill-fitting DJ and patent leather dancing shoes to follow his idol.

Obsessions are weird things and lead people down a lot of dangerous paths. All I can say is that one hopes his Hampstead audiences will be of a generation too young to have been exposed to the artistry of the real master.

He gets through a load of Coward jokey numbers that we all know by heart - and a couple of ballads in which he is self-conscious and woefully awash. He also for some reason throws in The Road To Mandalay - maybe because he had a brand new solar topee and some long shorts and was wondering how to get them in to the act. He then attempts Sondheim's Send In The Clowns which he manages rather better.

"Don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington," he says. Well all I can say is "Don't put your Noel on the Stage Mr Swinbank" - or if you do, stick to your own country where I am sure you go down a bomb.

Until January 25.

Aline Waites


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