So it proves, alas, with this sorry mélange of feeble revue sketches and toe-curling musical items devised by Steve Marmion and Live Theatre’s Max Roberts, with a handful of writers including Simon Stephens, Dylan Moran, Chi Onwurrah MP, Janice Okoh, Michael Chaplin and Alistair McDowall.
Six actors in clown make-up and white costumes simper and spout clichés and gobbets of received wisdom by Aldous Huxley, Samuel Beckett (“Dance first, think later”) and, er, Adolf Hitler, for what seems like an eternity of torture devised for addicts of children’s television or Godspell, or possibly both.
The second half is marginally better than the first half, and the second half of the second half much better than the rest, mainly because the writing acquires some texture and heft at last in Zoe Cooper’s study of a decrepit Labour MP (movingly done by Pamela Miles) fencing with the attentions of her bizarre carer (the extraordinary Laura Elphinstone). This is then contrasted with Simon Stephens’ amusingly ideal world litany of blue skies, independent coffee shops, nice music and a global return to good old letter-writing.
But honestly, the show has the intellectual gravitas of a collection of Christmas cracker mottos and the theatrical excitement of a nursery school exercise for the under-fives. The actors soon discover there’s not all that much to say about Utopia anyway, and the sketches veer off into unfunny game shows, dire domestic face-offs, a pointless incantation of 1852 office laws and a desperate chorus of “I’d like to teach the world to sing” (and drink Coca-Cola).
Tobi Bakare, Rufus Hound and Sophia Myles make up the numbers (or recite them, at least) with David Whitaker bravely plying the keyboards and even more bravely shedding jokes such as, “I like to take my tea with two lumps – my wife and my mother-in-law”. The peeling grey science lab of a set, where the cast are allegedly sorting through all the hopes and plans we have for Utopia, is by Lucy Osborne. My hopes and plans include finding the first bus home.