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Waiting For Groucho

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
‘Be funny, make money,’ was the maxim Mrs Minnie Marx drilled into her five boys as she shoved them onstage to eventually become (as a trio) the greatest American comedy acts this side of The Three Stooges. The young Rhymes With Purple company’s gentle, affectionate and well studied knockabout biographical homage reunites Harpo, Chico and – eventually – the cigar-chomping Groucho in a celestial mooch through their back pages, from their origins as German/Jewish immigrants in the slums of New York’s Lower East Side to Chico’s rallying of the troops for one last hurrah on a TV pilot to help pay off crippling gambling debts.

Initially presented on this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, having relatively inexperienced actors attempt to appropriate and impersonate the comic genius of such iconic figures as the company do here is a pretty tall order. But what writer Louise Oliver and director Frodo McDaniel have done beyond the wise-cracking archetypes is look at the brothers life offstage as much as on, with Groucho providing commentary as a smarty-pants ring-master working the audience like a trouper.

There’s nothing here you can’t get either from the collected wit and wisdom of Groucho or else the Marx Brothers movies themselves, still the best depiction ever of extended onscreen vaudeville routines with the occasional plot shoe-horned in. But, by the title’s reference to music hall fan Samuel Beckett, Rhymes With Purple are starting to slowly find their voice via a form of magical realist cabaret theatre that’s both sentimental and serious in its obvious love affair with the business of show, where making a song and dance of things is only half the story.

The Herald, October 22nd 2007

ends

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