The style conventions of Broadway Baby specify that we are a family publication and that profanity should be used in reviews only where strictly necessary. However, it would be a goshdarn travesty not to swear in a review of Champ, a play where every third word is cocksucker, arse-juice, or something about your mother.
Stanley, Melvin and Elliot, played by Oliver Booth, Mark Elderkin and Nick Pauling respectively, are failing – if not quite failed – actors, reduced to playing child-friendly bears at a mall, though they hardly fulfil requirements. On the twenty seventh day of their 32-day contract, they encounter Rodney, the six-year-old without a soul and their worst nightmare ensues. The entire play is set in their ‘dressing room’, which more resembles the break-room from Hell, replete with a vandalised sign and brown liquid stains inching down the walls. If you like your schadenfreude hot and sweaty, this is the show for you.
All of the actors are ferociously high-energy, blasting through snappy, sweary dialogue at a rate of knots, though unfortunately this does occasionally mean some of the better jokes fly by too fast to catch their punchlines. More of a problem is the fury that suffuses the whole play. Though the three actors are distinguished from each other through verbal tics, all three maintain an almost permanent fury from the moment they walk onstage. Each actor is only afforded a short moment of calm, with the result that the play has little in the way of an emotional arc.
Still, the cast do fantastically well with what feels like an eloquently expressed and compressed primal scream. Pierre Malherbe as supervisor Waldo channels Robert Lindsay uncannily, until an Andy Serkis’ Gollum moment, while Emily Child proves the perfect foil for the whole piece.
Sadistic, side-splitting and strictly over-18, it’s expletively explosive.