☆★★★★ Salad Days
An older lady turned to me just before Salad Days was about to start at the beautiful theatre in Richmond and asked if I had seen the show before? Sadly I hadn’t which didn’t stop her from reminiscing about the first time she saw it back in the mid-1950s, and even humming some of the tunes and also guaranteeing I would love it.
Salad Days premiered in the UK at the Theatre Royal, Bristol in June 1954, and transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre in London in August 1954, running for 2,283 performances. This is a new production that premiered last year at Sasha Regan’s wonderful Union Theatre and is now on a national tour, again under her auspices.
As for the story, ‘it’s the light-hearted tale of recent graduates Timothy and Jane, who, unhappy with their pushy parents to find a job, decide to take on the responsibility of looking after a piano in a park! Little are they prepared to deal with the magic and madness that follows’. And make no mistake chaps, there is magic and madness in glorious abundance in this charmingly stylish, witty, and bonkers – in the most positive way - production.
Mike Lees has designed a beautifully simple, yet elegant set that exquisitely conveys the period and also encloses the small but terribly effective band under the direction of Dan Smith, who not only plays but is a crucial part of the ensemble.
Wendi Peters leads the jolly company with great enthusiasm, always with great verve, a serious spring in her step and a joyous twinkle in her eye. In the role of Timothy was Lewis McBean who was clipped perfection and Jessica Croll as Jane was the embodiment of an ingenue, endearingly innocent and wholesome but with a charming voice and enormous vitality and style.
I must also mention a couple of other members of the ensemble. Callum Evans as Troppo was seriously flexible as the silent clown and quite mesmerising to watch, and Bradley Judge as Monsieur Gusset, the couturier was camp perfection.
Serious praise must also be lavished on Bryan Hodgson, who directs the entire piece with assured aplomb and a particular affection for the period. Having seen his tremendous production of Twang!! earlier this year, he is a director of musical theatre that has an inherent understanding of the genre and is undoubtedly a talent to watch.
So as the curtain came down, my older neighbour grinned, smiled and said, ‘that was great fun, and I’m personally nostalgic for a time when gay meant happy!’ There really is not much more to say?