After watching “Fuddy Meers” by David Lindsay-Abaire, one can only wonder why Sam Mandes’ new drama and movie company Scamp have chosen this so-called comical farce for their first West End production. Presumably it was chosen because of its success off-Broadway in New York, where the show ran to great notices and rapidly gained cult status. However, ‘Fuddy Meers’ is a reminder that despite much of our common cultural heritage we are in fact, as George Bernard Shaw drolly commented, ‘Two countries separated by a common language.’ Or in this case ‘by a sense of humour’.
The comedy centres on Claire (Katie Finneran), a woman who suffers from memory loss. Each morning Claire awakes with no memories of who she is, and each day she is greeted by a man calling himself Richard (Nicholas Le Prevost), who brings her a cup of coffee and claims to be her husband. Only this morning a man (Tim Hopper) with a limp, a lisp, and a facial deformity wearing broken handcuffs attached to one of his arms, appears at her window claiming to be Claire’s brother who has come to rescue her from danger.
What follows is a mish-mash of screwball characters all making claims upon Claire pulling her in different directions. There is Gertie, a grandmother who, as a result of a stroke, speaks in garbled sentences; Kenny, a teenager who uses dope and is insolent to everyone; Millet, a shy convict whose counter-ego is an aggressive puppet called ‘Hinky Binky’, and Heidi, a cop eager to indulge in police brutality.
The cast throw themselves wholeheartedly into their respective roles, especially Julia McKenzie as Gertie, who runs around the stage in a dowdy dressing gown, speaking gibberish and performing acts of violence with gleeful abandonment. The other star is Hinky Binky, a hand puppet with a predilection for fowl language and melodramatics!
Fuddy Meers, despite having all the elements of a farce, never quite hits the funny bone. There is much to chuckle at, and each character is at times amusing, yet it has many irritating moments.
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Boring farce" MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Glibly mechanical." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "One can only salute the cast for so gamely struggling with such tosh." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "This piece needs a big injection of wit."