HOW TO WIN AGAINST HISTORY at The Wardrobe, Bristol

Seiriol Davies has written and co-devised an entertainment in which bright young things do bright fun things set to music. Everything you ever wanted to know about life in the upper reaches of society is paraded for you, the lower orders, to gawp at:  Early life, schooling (Eton of course) fag/slave training, courtship, (suitable) marriage to the best breeding stock. Then (ahem) the messy business of conjugal thingummy as it might be navigated by a chap with a penchant for sparkly dresses.

A slightly bemused Dylan Townley, looking strangely at home in Regency attire, for the most part found refuge behind his keyboard. Paradoxically he started the show by exhibiting a mastery of the manipulation of silence to a delighted and already captivated audience. If the silences were this good surely pearls would follow.  We were not disappointed.

Our dragoman for the breakneck tour was the sometime 5th Marquis of Anglesey, one Henry Cyril Paget, brought to breathing, sequinned life for the occasion by Mr. Davies himself. With the look of one whose hair seems to have taken fright at events below the neckline his creation offers a glimpse into a counterfactual history in which the Empire is forged, not on the playing fields, but in the dressing-up box of Eaton.  This sensitive, misunderstood and emotionally troubled misfit is a comic creation of the first water.

A multi-purpose Matthew Blake, looking appropriately like Jeeves for a man who can turn his hand to anything and who has mastered the art of using a.r.t.i.c.u.l.a.t.i.o.n as a weapon, mops up the selection of humanity as has passed through the life of our hero.  His armoury of characters spans coy, cocked-wrist damsels to a grotesque, salivating, predatory Daily Mail journalist who looks, smells and oozes like the brainchild of Gerald Scarfe.

The first requisite for success (against history) it would seem, is to have pots of money, so numberless as to facilitate the indulgence of one’s every desire and whim, but such mortals are not the sole authors of their destiny – as we know, ‘noblesse oblige’. Which brings us to the means whereby one can lose such a fabulous hoard of lucre. Determined to do his bit and bring theatre to the proles, our hero sets off on an international tour of wealth-draining proportions, which is cut short by poor returns and a tragic early demise.

The show is a richly textured torrent of memorable characters, songs and verbal and physical jokes; galloping whimsy at its best. Anything funnier would likely need to include whoopee cushions at the Palace.

This co-production with Tobacco Factory Beyond nips over the bridge for a few days, but will return.    ★★★★☆   Graham Wyles   4th November 2017