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Review: Don’t Take The Pith at The Drayton Arms

Review by Olivia Ruggiero


‘Don’t Take The Pith’ is a farcical, fun and flamboyant new comedy written by Peter Rae and directed by Helen Bang. The Drayton Arms has been given a touch of 1920’s glamour and just a hint of jazz. The fabulous décor from the decadent chaise longue, to the winged armchair with half-finished knitting perched upon it and the wonderfully patriotic mannequin adorned with a union jack, leave no doubt of when the play will be set. Even the pre-show sound adds to the atmosphere, with light, up-tempo jazz music playing through the speakers with the effect of an old gramophone. 


Helen Bang’s direction coupled with Peter Rae’s witty writing are a recipe for success. The script is clever, fresh and full of outstanding one-liners that leave the audience laughing out loud, and Bang’s fast-paced, incredibly precise direction is the perfect compliment to this. The story is a parody on Agatha Christie like dramas – the classic tale of a valuable object going missing, only to be found hiding in plain sight, which then of course leads to the discovery that a much more valuable object has gone missing. Nobody is at the show for the plot though, a point which is made throughout the play in a rather brilliantly self-deprecating manner. It is a comedy after all – do they need a plot? 


The cast are strong, but the heroes of the night really are Rae and Bang. Their choices are so perfectly nuanced, effortless and they are both incredibly watchable. Rae’s exuberant energy and Bang’s fluidity attract and balance each other in a wildly perfect display. It is so clear they are both experts at their craft, and whilst working exceptionally hard to hit every moment, make it seem so effortless. Laura Morgan and Richard Rycroft as the “de Meurs” are fabulous at supporting the comedy. Their chemistry is also exceptional, and both do a wonderful job at embodying their characters. Abigail Dawn’s dialect work as the stereotypical northern maid is pitch perfect, her hunched figure and moody glare only adding to her wonderful work. Ola Teniola, Billie Vee and Daniel McDermott round off this wonderful cast. They are all brilliant and sing in their roles. What is truly evident in all of the actors is their understanding of the genre and their astounding voices. They are all to be applauded for their phenomenal comedic timing, use of pitch, volume and tone to really add flair to what is already a brilliant piece of writing. 


From sassy asides that take the mickey out of theatre, to hilarious social commentary on the British upper classes, to “pithy” puns and somehow acceptable comments on racial stereotypes; this play is a wonderful new piece of theatrical writing. It’s beyond thrilling to see such exceptional new work at a Fringe level. One hopes that work like this would see further growth and life. Rae has laid the groundwork for another tale in the adventures of Susan Bloom and Sebastian Hardcastle, and what an exciting thought that is! 

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