Style. It's something which is incredibly hard to define, yet instantly recognisable. It has a certain weight, yet uses the lightest of touches to seduce. It swirls upwards as sparkling bright as the crest of a wave, yet its undertow leaves marks on our consciousness.
Tomfoolery has style in abundance. It presents the songs of the American satirist Tom Lehrer in a staging by Matthew Francis which suggests the sophisticated cabarets and intimate revues of the Fifties and Sixties - Cranks and Pieces at Eight come to mind. Cameron Mackintosh and Robin Ray have provided some adaptation, sharp-shooting Lehrer's targets into the 21st century; some things never really change, do they? It's just that politicians go by other names.
Oliver Kubicki's set is a simple black one, dominated by a Warhol-type image of Lehrer, a grand piano and four white chairs. There are four performers - Dillie Keane (one of the founders of Fascinating Aida), Kit and the Widow, and Matthew Wolfenden (who holds his own against the others and makes something frightening of the penultimate number "The Old Dope Peddler").
"National Brotherhood Week", "Send the Marines" and "Vatican Rag" are as punchy as anything being written today and Lehrer's cool-eyed clear-eared assaults on manufactured nostalgia, such as "The Folk Song Army". "Wienerschnitzel Waltz", "Bright College Days" and "Irish Ballad", are razor-sharp still.
The sheer energy of the cast as they sing, dance, take turns as accompanist and draw an (admittedly willing) audience into the heart of each joke, each level of irony is an object lesson by itself. But then, the whole show has style. Is style. Go and see it for yourself - and hope that someone finds an appropriate West End theatre at the end of the tour. Tomfoolery deserves that sort of showcase.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds)