Friday, 15 August 2014

Cabaret review: Laughing Matters with Celia Imrie

In 2009 I saw a play called Mixed Up North, in which Celia Imrie's character had to offer an audience member - me, on the night I went - a slice of cake. Theatregoing on the scale that I do it throws up these little celeb encounters now and again, but I guess it's a sign of the affection held for Miss Babs that this is one story people always remember: Even five years later I can't mention Imrie without someone mentioning cake, and I strongly suspect my tombstone will read "Celia Imrie Gave Him Cake That One Time." So I couldn't really pass up this latest opportunity to see her on stage: With her damehood still apparently in the post, she's kept a high profile that might help speed it up, including this cabaret show of songs, sketches and anecdotes, Laughing Matters at the St James Studio.

To put it politely, Imrie isn't the best singer, but she mostly performs speak-song, which she's pretty decent at, and shows a fondness for patter songs. Her anecdotes largely revolve around how she got various notable roles, and would pretty much confirm anyone's suspicions that casting is a random business largely falling to luck: Turning up to an audition with a half-finished haircut got her The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, while a casting agent seeing her snog Harold Pinter on stage thought she'd be perfect for those three frames of The Phantom Menace she was in.

This is a bit of a ramshackle show, and seasoned cabaret performers are unlikely to have too many sleepless nights, but if you were expecting a flirtatious sexagenarian having a bit of a laugh at the expense of her own massive comedy knockers you'll get what you came for. And, between choosing songs merely as an excuse to get her dancers' tops off, sketches mostly picked for their high double-entendre content, and everyone in the room getting paper sailor hats to wear for the singalong encore, it's probably fair to say that Imrie Knows Her Audience.

Laughing Matters with Celia Imrie is booking until the 17th of August at the St James Studio (returns only.)

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes including interval.

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