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A CurtainUp London London Review
Tom, Dick and Harry

I was admiring your Titus (tight ****)
---- Mrs Potter to the policeman
Tom, Dick and Harry
Stephen McGann, Joe McGann & Mark McGann as Dick, Tom and Harry
(Photo: Sheila Burnett)
Way back in the middle of the last century there was this theatrical phenomenon called Whitehall Farce. Brian Rix usually starred at the Whitehall Theatre (now revamped as the Trafalgar Studios) in a cheerful romp set in the English shires with pretty girls and errant husbands caught in compromising situations. Plenty of innuendo, not much substance and a set with many doors for near miss entrances and exits was the order of the day.

These days a farce is a rare event on the London stage. Television has inherited the genre to some extent with situation comedy. August is the silly season but all the serious critics wing up to Edinburgh to see the happening event that is the Edinburgh Fringe, leaving the West End theatres empty for the most part of new work. Add the recent bombings and theatre producers will look once more to the home audience to fill their theatres. That brings us to Ray Cooney who has penned some long running and well liked plays the best known of which is Run For Your Wife -- and now, Tom, Dick and Harry which is co-written by Cooney's son, LA screenwiter Michael.

Grabbing headlines because of the relationship of three of the cast, Tom, Dick and Harry stars the Liverpudlian acting dynasty, the McGanns. Sadly Paul McGann, he of Dr Who fame and maybe the most illustrious actor, does not join his siblings in this stage outing.

The scenario is this: Tom (Joe McGann) and his lovely young wife Linda (Hannah Waterman) are expecting. Expecting a baby? Not quite. They are expecting a visit from a social worker, the draconian Mrs Potter (Louise Jameson) to assess their suitability as adoptive parents. Linda has carefully stage managed the home and learnt by heart the health and safety leaflet but Tom's brothers will cause mayhem and rampage with the help of two stowaway Kosovan asylum seekers, a dismembered corpse and a policeman.

Whether or not you enjoy Tom Dick and Harry depends probably on what you expect from it and what kind of mood you are in at the beginning of the evening. The Cooney formula is unchanging -- puns that make you smile and groan at the same time and some that you will be able to predict. There are all the usual allusions to dicks and pussies. The men complicate things for themselves as their preposterous lies of explanation get more and more incredible and ridiculous to defend. Tom claims that they are rehearsing for a Channel 4 television film of a home set production of Titus Andronicus.

Joe McGann as Tom is largely the straight man. Stephen is brother Dick, who has smuggled a vanload of contraband cigarettes and brandy with two unexpected visitors. It is brother Mark McGann as Harry the cerebrally challenged hospital porter who devised the "body parts" scam. Tom's landlord refuses to sell the house to Tom at an affordable price. Harry schemes to plant some human remains in the garden and so bring down the value of the house. In fact, experience shows that this first principle of estate agency is flawed as notoriety normally adds to rather than detracts from a house's value.Mark McGann as Harry is that blend of innocence and disaster. With his hair slicked down and his cheeks rouged rosy red, his wide eyed facial expressions are a treat.

As I said at the outset, your enjoyment of these farcical shenanigans will depend on the expectations and mood you bring to the theatre. If you're ripe for a broad romp, then you will love Joe's sitting on the sofa, which has hidden inside it a drunken trumpet playing Kosovan, pretending a bad case of wind is responsible for the percussion effects.

Tom, Dick and Harry
Written by Ray Cooney and Michael Cooney
Directed by Ray Cooney
Starring: Joe McGann
With: Hannah Waterman, Stepehn McGann, Mark McGann, Brian Greene, Sarah Wateridge, Mark Wingett, Louise Jameson, David Warwick
Design: Douglas Heap
Lighting: Douglas Kuhrt
Sound: Ben Harrison
Running time: Two hours twenty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 060 6623
Booking until 12 November 2005.
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 24th August performance at the Duke of York's Theatre, St Martin's Lane, London WC2 (Tube: Leicester Square)
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