The Boy who was Woody Allen
David Simmons and Geoff Morrow
Where's Woody Limited and The Scifan Corporation
The Pleasance (Islington)
Someone once tried to shoot a moose. The moose reacted badly to being shot in the behind, and charged at this ‘someone’ that just so happened to be Woody Allen.
This moose caught drift that coincidentally, a play was being staged in London that featured a story about him, and he wanted in—so he was granted the introduction. It’s a cameo moose; it’s entertaining but far from original. He claims to be “the best thing in this show”, attempting to set up the situation where we expect to be stunned by brilliance. We’re not stunned, though, and he actually is the best thing about the show.
The story of Woody Allen is a very interesting one. This production tries to add comedy to the mix and there is some potential, but every production value falls short. It’s a poorly written script, with poor effects and design, and an ill-prepared cast throughout.
James Phelps is the centre of attention, and as the company points out wherever possible, we recognise him as Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter series. In making his stage debut, he plays an 18-year-old, 6’3” John O’Leary, a catholic boy from a catholic school, who is confronted with the ‘real world’ and his careers adviser.
In a frantic panic, he decides he wants to become Woody Allen: a wise career choice, undeniably, with a whole load of success in tow. As Woody, he becomes Jewish, marries Valhalla Glickstein who we quickly discover is a lesbian (prompting their rapid divorce), dates Olga Orifice who works at the sexual patisserie, and he dabbles in a bit of stand-up comedy too.
It’s really this simple: the jokes aren’t funny; the performances are weak; the storyline is confusing in some places and there is no single moment that really demands our attention. A number of the actors play a number of roles which is usually a great display of versatility and skill; here, the lines are blurred between characters and it’s quite unwelcome.
The discussion of religion and homosexuality are very topical at the moment, but it feels one of two things: completely accidental, or dropped in at the very last minute for effect. The sound effects are typical and out of sync, and the projection adds very little but it’s something other than the static action to look at every so often: there’s nothing much to admire aesthetically if nothing else.
What’s lovely, though, is that all proceeds go to charity—Jewish Care—and so we should donate to prevent this disaster happening again.
Hearing the fellow audience members’ (the vast majority of which ranged from 40 to 70 in age) discussions was as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable than the show itself—one of their gentle, off-the-cuff criticisms being that “it probably won’t make the West End”. There’s no doubt about it.
Reviewer: Adam Penny