LEO PARKER-REES makes merry marking the Mad Men Mamet at Magdalene.

cripps auditorium David Mamet Freddy Sawyer Jess Kwong leo parker-rees Luka Krsljanin Magdalene Mamet Simeon Wallis speed-the-plow

Cripps Auditorium, Magdalene, 24th-26th November, 7.45pm, £4-6

Directed by Simeon Wallis

[rating: 4/5]

“The lights are dimming, it’s about to start,” whispered someone sitting behind me. Nope. Just a techie, playing. For quite a while. I’d tried to review this show the previous night, but had been sent away – apparently it was a dress rehearsal, not the opening night. Perhaps this was the tech. Whatever was going on, it didn’t seem promising. Most importantly, I wanted to see Airplane! at Christ’s Films afterwards, and the delaying light-show was disconcerting. If you make me miss my movie it will cost you in stars, Magdalene Mameters.

The beginning of the play didn’t raise my hopes much. The set was largely bare, making the lecture-hall-theatre look a little more lecture-hall than theatre. There was a sofa, though. I was equally uninspired by the opening lines. American accents need to be spot-on, or they really grate, and that’s asking a lot from a small cast. Perhaps I was too focused on the not-quite-perfect accents, but the very beginning didn’t make an impact. The snappy dialogue was, yes, snappy, but awkward.

As the show continued, however, things picked up fast. Freddy Sawyer and Luka Krsljanin (playing Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox respectively) really got into the flow, bringing out the comedy in a truly brilliant script. Making movies is a dirty dirty business, it turns out. In the first half Sawyer was the star: newly promoted to head of production, oozing arrogance and every inch a dirty whore. Krsljanin’s performance was strong, but didn’t have quite as much to work with.

Gould’s secretary Karen (Jess Kwong) had the weakest accent and the least interesting character, but she won me round with her relentless enthusiasm, wonderfully incongruous alongside the jaded men. It was a little one-note, but forgivably so; there’s a time and a place for simple characters, and this was one. One criticism that I’d make, of all the cast (or perhaps of the director), was that there seemed to be a missed opportunity to be disgusting. The characters were all fairly unsympathetic, but nowhere near as much as they could have been. An interesting directorial decision, perhaps, but if so it seemed misjudged.

This isn’t Varsity, so I won’t just plod through the plot. (If you want that, go and see the play. This is a review. Here are some opinions.) The space wasn’t great, a little too big to feel immersed in the show, despite very strong performances. The cast really flexed their talent-muscles after the interval, with Krsljanin in particular really making the most of a script peppered with memorable one-liners. I totally forgot my initial apprehension about the accents – I’d already bought what they were selling. I even forgot about the inexcusable scene change, where very little was done, very slowly, by lots of people. With backing music. None of that could spoil what was a really great show.

I don’t know where to heap most praise – on the script or the cast. Both can have plenty. And a big old dollop for the director as well, for creating the combination. Not many people were watching, perhaps put off by the fact that this isn’t at the ADC and doesn’t come with tinsel. Cripps Court isn’t far from anywhere, and this play deserves a bigger audience. Be it.