Review: Making Dickie Happy (Tristan Bates Theatre)

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Jeremy Kingston is what one might just call, a literary and imaginative genius. The concept for Making Dickie Happy came about by Kingston finding out that Noël Coward, Lord ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten and Agatha Christie used to visit the same hotel just off the coast of Devon. A fictitious scenario of their meeting and interaction unfolds to provide us with this captivating, witty and at times, quite adult humoured production. Set just after the first World War, Robert Gillespie’s masterful direction, and outstanding performances from the cast bring back to life this acclaimed play first performed in 2004.

A young Noël Coward (Phineas Pett) is at the hotel for the weekend with his boyfriend Tono (David Alderman). They soon encounter a strange lone woman, Agatha Christie (Helen Duff), who is staying at the hotel under a different name. Not too long after, they are joined by Lord Louis ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten (James Phelips) and his naval ‘friend’ J-Boy (Matthew Alexander). It doesn’t take long for Pett to discover the identity of Duff which sets off the direction in which all the characters interact.


James Phelips and Helen Duff give wonderful performances.

The story unfolds at a steady pace, keeping you intrigued about where it is all going and what is about to happen. What you discover is that not much actually happens other than a lot of smoking, drinking cocktails, eating nuts, and the occasional ping on the piano. This actually suited the play quite well as this period comedy is quite heavily worded and the story is perhaps meant to be conveyed only through the script. The amount of characters that make up the production has also perfectly been chosen as it provides just the right amount of interaction to make you feel like it’s all real. This is proven and accentuated by the addition of cheeky butler Cyril (Rob Pomfret) who only adds to the plays character, wit and humour.

Through all it’s cheeky smutty humour, sarcastic one liners and camp dramatics, the play also focuses on some serious issues of self, love, life and relationships. Using the social elite and the 20s as a backdrop, it highlights the pressures of society in the choices of being truthful to ourselves or being what we think is expected of us. Not once in the play is the word gay or homosexual mentioned, but through the dialogue and some of the interactions this is certainly implied. Plett, Duff and Phelips deliver outstanding performances that, for a moment, makes you believe that this is what the characters were actually like in real life. Plett also makes me want to know what it would’ve been like to be Noël Cowards best friend.

Even if you don’t know who these historical figures were (which we hope is not the case), it wouldn’t make a difference to your enjoyment of this production. Making Dickie Happy is definitely a play to add onto your must see list. The characters are perfectly portrayed by Duff and Pett, and the mix of Agatha Christie’s mystery and Noel Cowards witty comedy make for the perfect partnership.

Making Dickie Happy is currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 5 to 30 March 2013. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 0207 240 6283 

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