Fully Committed**** (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Posted: October 6, 2014 in Theatre

menier chocolate factoryIn 2004, I paid my first visit to the newly-opened Menier Chocolate and fell in love with the place instantly. Even before The Shard towered above it in the near distance and Borough Market had undergone its makeover, something magical had descended upon what had been a dreary and neglected area of London. That first production was Fully Committed, a small-scale, one-man play which gave few clues as to the treasures that were to follow.  Glossing over the ghastly Paradise Found, the Menier has effectively re-defined musical theatre for London, scaling down big shows, many by Stephen Sondheim, to fit into a studio setting. This revival is a happy reminder of that first visit. The play’s only character is Sam, a resting actor who operates the telephones and takes the bookings for a chic, in-demand New York restaurant. Written by Becky Mode and directed by Mark Setlock, who was Sam in the first production here, the play is a frantic hour of non-stop comedy in which Sam speaks not only as himself but also as the voices at the other end of the phones – diners desperately seeking reservations, the ogreish chef, the maitre d’hôte, his own father, his agent, a fellow actor gloating that he has got a part, etc. With no computers in sight, Sam takes all the reservations by hand, thereby making the play look at least ten years out of date, but, otherwise it is as fresh as when it first appeared. Here, Sam is played by the British actor/comedian Kevin Bishop who gives a virtuoso display of voice mimicry and facial contortions, taking us through the piece at breakneck speed; he also brings to the character a quality of real likability which draws us in and makes us root for him as he juggles the priorities of making bucks, furthering his acting career and staying close to his family. Highly entertaining.

photo: Catherine Ashworth

Performance date: 3 October 2014

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