ELOISE AND THE CURSE OF THE GOLDEN WHISK at the Wardrobe, Bristol

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Set during the second world war this is a delightful romp performed by five talented players from The Wardrobe Ensemble. Arthur is front-of-house at a successful restaurant in Bristol run by his father. Bombs are falling and tragedy strikes. Two years later and Arthur is struggling to keep the restaurant going. He has lost the will to succeed and the food, mostly spam fritters, is dire; then along comes Eloise. She has been displaced from her home in Paris by the war and separated from her family but her cooking skills are just what Arthur needs… even if at first he doesn’t realise it.

As is often usual with the small theatre troupes these capable actors play a multitude of parts. They also sing, dance and provide special effects. There is some lovely music in this show with great harmony singing from the cast and soulful guitar playing by Hanora Kamen(Grandma Buggins).  James Newton(Arthur) plays the trombone through a looping machine to provide some inventive effects and there are also gentle ukulele to create a mellow mood when needed. The actors are busy from start to finish, rushing around the stage, weaving past each other, using the props to move smartly and quickly from scene to scene, generating the energy which makes this show a pleasure to watch.

There are also moments of tension, romance and menace. Eloise, played by Jesse Meadows, has awakened a curse when she finds the golden whisk and as well as solving the clues and finding the ingredients she must also confront her fears. Busy-body Susan, played by the versatile Kerry Lovell,  has a soft spot for Arthur; but will she manage to charm him from his stoic Englishness(“…stop being so ruddy British!”) and get him to show his affections?

Although at times they take a well-trodden path of stock characters and clichéd plots, after all it is a family show, there is plenty of variety as well. There are yanks selling sweets and songs about queuing. The young schoolboy Casper, played by Tom Brennen, provides a good link between the nice guys and the shady characters. There are some amusing, crowd-pleasing references to Bristol locations and street names.

The charming Wardrobe Theatre is the perfect place to perform this kind of show. The compact space means the actors are able to connect with the audience, both figuratively and practically, and it allows them to display their talents to their best effect. This is a delightful, dynamic, amusing show that is suitable for adults and children alike. A great evening’s entertainment.    ★★★★☆    Adrian Mantle     9th September 2016