Once In A Lifetime
Young Vic Theatre
Cast Includes Harry Enfield, Kevin Bishop and Claudie Blakely
Running Time: 2 hour 20 mins
Once In A Lifetime is a frothy festival revival from the Young Vic this year. Based upon the 1930 play by Kaufman and Hart, the play is a critique on the advent of the Hollywood movie industry around the invention of the ‘talkie’, which started with The Jazz Singer. However, despite a strong cast the plot is whimsical and frankly implausible. The rags-to-riches story feels overly familiar – at the time, this was a hugely successful play; however, 85 years later it feels frankly tired, and has many flats moments in the piece, especially at the start.
One of the major issues with the piece are the characters – the leads have very little to work with and they feel two dimensional and there feels very little to empathise with. Whilst John Marquez does a good job with the role of George, he is written like a cartoon, getting into a highly improbable situation in the second act and then managing to escape the consequences through crazy plotting.
One of the major draws for the show is Harry Enfield’s casting in his theatrical debut – he suitably acquits himself, bringing one of the most rounded portrayals in the piece. The play only really starts properly on his entry (which is a way into the piece) and he manages to bring pathos to a role that could easily have been larger and sent up.
One of the best turns in the pieces is Amanda Lawrence as the secretary Miss Leighton. She manages to give a superbly comic turn and his highly entertaining. Her facial expressions were spot on, and she really delivered in a role that could have been unforgiving and small.
The set of the piece was amazing – rotating and offering some beautiful moments, to allow for set changes. These were great however there were moments when this was overused – rather than turning the minimum amount sometimes this would turn nearly 360 degrees, which felt slow and made the piece feel longer than it needed to.
Summary – A flimsy comedy that has some implausible plotting with a good cast. Great for the holidays or for those wanting something unchallenging, but unfortunately leaves much to be desired. ***