Theatre review: The 2000 Year Old Man at JW3

PUBLISHED: 13:11 24 March 2015

05.10.2014 © BLAKE EZRA PHOTOGRAPHY LTD
Casting images for 'The 2000 Year Old Man' play, coming to JW3
© Blake Ezra Photography LTD 2014

05.10.2014 © BLAKE EZRA PHOTOGRAPHY LTD Casting images for 'The 2000 Year Old Man' play, coming to JW3 © Blake Ezra Photography LTD 2014

© Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2014 www.blakeezraphotography.com +44 (0) 208 207 3966

This old man....he played one unfunny gig, found Bridget Galton

It was always an experiment using verbatim theatre techniques to re-enact every cough and spit of old Mel Brooks sketches, but it seems to disprove the maxim that comedy is all about timing.

With an ear-piece feeding him the comic legend’s original lines, Canadian actor Kerry Shale reproduces the exact rhythms, ums and aahs of these largely improvised interviews with sidekick Carl Reiner.

But somehow their schtick, edited down to an hour from five best-selling albums of the 60s and 70s, doesn’t cross the footlights.

Perhaps, unlike Brooks’ world oldest man, who has met Cleopatra, Shakespeare, Napoleon and Jesus, the material hasn’t time travelled well.

Or, possibly engaging as he is, Shale, can never hope to recreate the indefinable magic of Brooks’ comic persona.

There’s certainly little dynamic between him and Chris Neill, whose Reiner figure is a dull stooge reduced to stumblingly feeding questions to this ancient Yiddish know-it-all.

Being new to this material, I didn’t arrive with the sentiment and affection I would to say the Not The Nine O’clock News album, or others would to Monty Python sketches.

But the JW3 audience, who would surely count as the proverbial converted, weren’t rolling in the aisles either.

Only the end anecdote, when our antiquated hero is threatened with a red hot poker by Spanish inquisitors and offers to be a ‘Jew rotisserie’ came close to the silly, dark, satire of Brook’s best work.

The real Brooks has announced a comeback date at The London Palladium this month.

Fans should perhaps book for that instead. Or, if you heard his excruciatingly unfunny mock interview with Alan Yentob on Radio 4 a fortnight ago, perhaps not.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Until March 22

Bridget Galton


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