Tom Neenan: Vaudeville

Tom Neenan appears to be making his way through the genres with his one-man/many characters shows: Edwardian ghost story in 2014, and 1950s-styled British science fiction thriller last year. In 2016, with Vaudeville, Neenan shifts back to horror, but specifically the portmanteau horror films in which several tales were linked together for a greater effect, a format made famous by the likes of Dead by Night and Tales from the Crypt.

Great to see his writing mature, with a greater focus on characters which are increasingly more than just flat jokes.

Entering the room, which has been plunged into total darkness, Neenan – allegedly celebrating his birthday all on his lonesome – is the security guard working in the old Vaudeville Theatre. He’s somewhat startled to suddenly find himself with an audience, and once it becomes clear that we’ve paid money (well, except for us reviewers) and are not intending to leave, Neenan decides to share some of the more famous stories about the place.

The first focuses on a “magician, ventriloquist and weirdo” who’s dummy Mr Nibbles appears to have a murderous mind of its own, especially when it comes to getting rid of a rival for the affections of a beautiful singer called Doreen. This is followed by the tale of the celebrated actor who murders a horrendous theatre critic in order to safely perform his one-man production of Hamlet without fear of her scorn and ridicule. Finally, there’s the tale of young wannabe ballet dancer Kelly, who unwittingly makes a deal with the devil, which of course doesn’t end well for her.

On their own, each of the stories works well, although the final one is arguably lower-key than you might expect, in terms of its wit and twist. But Neenan knows his subject well – in the best portmanteau horror films, the true climax is actually the final twist in the wrap-around narrative which, on this occasion, puts the audience – us – in a very different light.

Once again Neenan performs all of the characters in the stories, each precisely focused around a particular accent, posture, character quirk or even their location on the stage. He impressively switches from one character to another, having conversations with himself that even on occasions include off-hand discussions about mistakes he’s made in performing his own script.

Talking of the script, while there are still plenty of laughs to be had in Neenan’s much-loved wordplay and self-conscious recognition of the limits of the staging, the use of this kind of material is much more restrained – and, therefore, all the more effective. Even with Noonan, you can have too much of a good thing; it’s great to see his writing mature, with a greater focus on characters which – though not exactly drawn in three dimensions – are increasingly more than just flat jokes.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Royal Lyceum Theatre

Mrs Puntila And Her Man Matti

★★
Traverse Theatre

W*nk Buddies

★★★
Traverse Theatre

Pride Plays

★★★★
Multiple Venues

Oor Wullie

★★★★
Oran Mor / Traverse Theatre

Fly Me To The Moon

★★★★
Platform / Traverse Theatre

The Panopticon

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Backstage at the Vaudeville Theatre hear dark and hilarious tales of magic, malevolence and misfortune in this one-man portmanteau horror comedy from master storyteller, comedian and writer Tom Neenan. 'Sustained and consistent brilliance' (Guardian). ‘Very funny… Neenan inhabits the rogues’ gallery of characters with great panache' **** (Telegraph). 'Hilariously chilling' **** (Metro). **** (ThreeWeeks). **** (BroadwayBaby.com). Highly Recommended (FringeReview.co.uk). ***** (FringeBiscuit.co.uk). ***** (ArtsAwardsVoice.com).

Most Popular See More

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Heathers The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets