Fuddy Meers

David Lindsay-Abaire

Arts Theatre

(2004)

Review by Philip Fisher

Fuddy Meers might best be described as a kind of second cousin to Ben Elton's Popcorn. It is a really zany comedy that derives much of its humour from the memory loss suffered by its heroine, Claire.

It may well find its place in theatrical history primarily as the first child of Sam Mendes' new film and theatre production company, Scamp, rather than on its own merits although these are significant.

It is good to see some of the best recent work Off-Broadway making it to London as this play and Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman open on consecutive nights. There is the added benefit of about half of the original New York cast, supplemented by some excellent English additions.

The jokes are fast and furious and, for the most part, director Angus Jackson seems in control and ensures that the timing comes off. There is only one moment when the whole cast seems to run around randomly as if at a loss. Otherwise, they do the play justice.

The characters are wacky and any one of them would ensure a bizarre night. Together they make up a cross between a children's cartoon, a Cuckoo's Nest-mental hospital and a game of (un)happy families.

Amnesiac Claire, played by Katie Finneran, with just the right mix of innocence and experience, wakes up to a fresh life every morning. She shares this with her jolly husband, Nicholas le Prevost in good form as Richard, and disenchanted druggie dropout son Kenny (John Gallagher Jr).

On the day in question, she is kidnapped by deranged and deformed Philip (Tim Hopper) and his sidekicks. They are led by subnormal Millet, played with a wonderful touch by Matthew Lillard, who lives half of his life through a foul-mouthed and extremely funny muppet, Hinky Binky (who even gets a programme interview).

Add in Charlotte Randle as a policewoman-crook and the hilarious Julia Mackenzie as Claire's stroke-sufferer mother who cannot speak coherently, to complete the ingredients.

They are then all magimixed together to achieve a black comedy with numerous surprises and some very good laughs.

Fuddy Meers may not appeal to all tastes but it should still prove as successful here as in New York and elsewhere. There have already been over 200 productions worldwide since it opened in 1999.

The plot relies on far too many coincidences and has a lot of loose ends. This is probably completely irrelevant to viewers who will not analyse the play. They are far more likely to delight in the performances and the laughs.