For Doris, pride comes before a fall

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Silly Cow by Ben Elton, Stables Theatre, May 10 to 18. Review by Julian Irvine.

“...all reviews... are maddeningly silly drivel, the ravings of a lunatic …. who simply has not taken the trouble to understand the piece.” (Act II p.36) Oh well, here goes!

Ben Elton’s 1991 critique of gutter journalism had been updated by Director Matt Turpin to make it appropriate to a post-Leveson era. Doris Wallis, tabloid columnist, self opinionated motor-mouth and destroyer of reputations, faces a day in court and an appearance on the Graham Norton Show.

Bertie Hustwayte’s performance in the role dominated the stage with a bravura, full-throttle fortissimo interpretation, though at times some variation in volume may still have worked!

Peggy, her personal assistant, played with self-effacing assurance by Victoria Fay, and Douglas, her accountant, a performance of appropriate rectitude by Philip Blurton, were there to deal with mundanities for which Doris’s ego had neither interest nor time. Also in the mix was Sidney (Tim Wormley-Healing), a journalistic hack, negotiating to open a newsrag in Euroland, chasing Doris for his team and alternately verbally battering and cajoling her to come onside.

Enter Eduardo (Charlie Abrahams), toy-boy, hip, flip, utterly convinced of his own indestructibility, and there to flatter Doris and add to the comic mayhem that beautifully gathered pace during the play. In his directorial debut Matt Turpin had handled all his cast well, and their standard of acting was uniformly high.

Despite her cocksure façade, Doris shows signs of insecurity from the beginning and the tables are about to turn. Should she sign with Sidney? Will things go well in court? Returning from a Pyrrhic victory, it is relief and celebratory Champagne and pizza.

But then cocaine is sent in error to her disgusted and affronted accountant, documents go astray, deals are broken and Douglas is marvellously floored with a bottle by Peggy who pronounces him dead. Doris is now a quaking indecisive wreck. Turning to Peggy for help she learns the dreadful truth. And so the culminating twists of the play were uproariously delivered.

Original artworks enhanced the piece, in particular “Elvis Presley’s Favourite Gun” by Paula MacArthur which dominated the back wall and was the perfect metaphor for the danger into which Doris had stepped; pride comes before a fall, and what a joyous night was made of the descent.