This is a bit of a carry on, in more ways than one. There are over 50 characters but only one performer, Amanda Lawrence, in this affectionate whirlwind tribute to the comedy actor, Charles Hawtrey, who stole his name from the Edwardian actor and manager, lost his career to alcoholism and his life to gangrene. The former child actor, who began his career playing a Lost Boy in Peter Pan and appeared in the Will Hay films, eventually achieved fame late in life as a regular in the Carry On series.
But before he even opened his mouth to declare lines that included, "I don't mind the jiggery, but I do take exception to pokery" he looked funny: his thin face with its wire-framed specs in a permanent pucker of camp surprise and disapproval, as if he was sucking on a lemon while being tickled with a feather duster.
Tickling the audience with a feather duster is the style of Lawrence's approach which mercilessly sends up the conventions of the one-person show while revelling in them. There are layers of theatricality and artifice here, which has Olivier popping up in a shopping trolley, and the detritus that accumulated in Hawtrey's Deal home in Kent, where he retreated after being sacked from the Carry On films for drunkenness, is conjured into props. The show, which is often very funny, operates as a prolonged comic double take: Lawrence is a woman playing a man-boy who liked to play women, and the production cleverly overlays action with audio snatches from the films.
I mugged up on Hawtrey before going, and you probably do need some background to fully appreciate the collage nature of the piece. But it's a compassionate and wistful portrait of man doomed to eternally play Peter Pan.
Until 19 December. Box office: 020-7452 4220.
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Guardian: Jiggery Pokery | Theatre review
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