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Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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We're a nation used to seeing classics fondly sent up. It’s probably something to do with the bit of our psyche which loves panto, Carry On films and why The 39 Steps has endured in the West End for years.

Billed as a “lovingly disrespectful homage” to that great love story from Hollywood, Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut does exactly that: seventy years on since the film was first released, Casablanca is ripe for a little ribbing.

Directed by Morag Fullarton a talented cast of three play all the roles between them, in a Stones in His Pockets, ‘deliberately change character on stage’ sort of way.

Jimmy Chisholm is a gloriously camp Captain Renault and heroic Resistance leader Victor Laszlo while Clare Waugh is both the jut-jawed Nazi Major Strasser and Ingrid Bergman’s pouty heroine Ilsa Lund.

Her former lover-turned-cynic Rick Blaine is the excellent Gavin Mitchell – and he does a damn good Humphrey Bogart. Mitchell relishes the classic, oft-parroted lines (“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid”) but he’s already taken the mick out of them earlier, so in this topsy-turvy world of parody that’s allowed.

Early on, some amusing “behind-the-scenes” style interviews mimic Hollywood’s penchant for gossip and show off how talented these character actors are. We could easily have gobbled up more of these.

There was still a thrill down my spine at some moments between Rick and Ilsa – even though the rug is swiftly and skilfully pulled out from under each serious scene. I can’t stop humming “As Time Goes By” - but with a wry smile at the almost-unacceptable-joke that, naturally, accompanies it.

Credit must go to the production team which pulls in real laughs with mad sound effects - this Casablanca with a twist is a proper team effort. Mostly spot-on gags and cracking impersonations make this transfer from the Edinburgh festival (for the second year running) a fun, irreverent humdinger.

-Vicky Ellis


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