Daarrling you simply must see A Dirty Martini. It’s a play about the Bright Young Things put on by some vair brainy people at Trailblaze Theatre Co from Brighton. They devised it too, can you imagine, based on the work of that nice Evelyn Waugh. And the best part is - and this is simply spiffing - the audience get to decide what happens. No honestly, every now and again they stop and Mr Waugh (he’s played by the rather delightful Jonathan Craze) comes on stage and gives the audience a choice about what they want to happen to the characters next. Imagine! And they do it awfully well too (I’ll stop now).
The plot, about a young ingénue introduced to the high life only to eclipse her introducers, can hardly be described as original. No matter, what distinguishes this play is the zest and precision of its cast. Interactivity in theatre has rarely been managed as sharply as here: flags were placed on the tables around which the audience sat and used at the requisite moments to cast a vote. An interactive horse racing scene was superb. The meta nature of the piece, with Waugh as the writer commenting upon the foibles of his Bright Young Thing characters, was cleverly thought through and did well to capture the sardonic nature of Waugh’s prose.
Each of the Bright Young Things was a treat, even if the cut-glass accents wavered at times. Charlotte Blandford was superb as the gloriously acidic Elizabeth, a social butterfly ‘renowned for giving no good advice whatsoever’.Within the ensemble there was a responsiveness to each other that was a joy to watch and that came into the fore when responding to the audience choices. Some of the dancing could have been sharper – though the Charleston is a notoriously difficult dance to get right - but with sheer vim they carried it off. Gwen, the ingénue, was played with an innocent charm by Rosanna Elliott.
I was having a whale of a time until the last five minutes. The ending, which popped out of nowhere, suddenly struck a darker tone. Waugh, true, was known for his dark commentary, but it was undershot by a wry wit. This ending was violent and humourless and the writer’s commentary upon it rather trite and preachy; it felt as though Edward Bond and a vicar had stumbled into the party by accident. Due to the interactive nature of the piece I can’t be sure that this ending is repeated every performance - I very much hope it’s not.
You understand daarrling: the play’s an absolute hoot until the end and then everything becomes vair dull.