The Cheeky Chappies’ Christmas Cracker, at B2, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
The Cheeky Chappies are Dick and Ginger, an old-time music hall double act who seem to have been delivered to the Belgrade this Christmas through some mysterious time-warp.
But their planned seasonal extravaganza has suffered swingeing last-minute cuts. Out have gone the glittering guest artistes, including Sir Ian and Dame Judi (although at the performance I saw a Dame did put in an unexpected appearance), the set, Christmas tree and even the interval.
Assisted only by an intermittently-interested and health and safety-conscious stage manager, Dick and Ginger are forced to dig deep into their own resources to conjure up an evening’s entertainment with the aid of collaborators, or victims, selected from the audience.
Among other wheezes we have a reindeer race, a French magician, a Russian strongman catching bullets in his teeth, a remarkably complete performance of A Christmas Carol for radio, and a singalong Twelve Days of Christmas complete with appropriate, or inappropriate, moves.
Having surrendered the main stage to the tried-and-tested panto team, Belgrade’s artistic director Hamish Glen continues his commendable recent tradition of offering alternative adult entertainment in the studio with this collaboration with writers and performers Paul Nolan and Robert Wilkinson.
For that reason I really wanted it to work, but it was touch-and-go for much of the first half, where funnier material was needed to consolidate the show’s droll premise.
But somewhere in the middle – maybe with the diminutive Nolan’s strongman – the tipping point of silliness was achieved, and by the time the partridge in a pear tree came round for the final time the Cheeky Chappies had just about pulled it off again.
Running time: One hour, ten minutes (no interval). Until Dec 23.