Howerd's End, Golden Goose Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until October 31, 2020

Mark Farrelly's outstanding new play, Howerd's End, brings to life the humour and clandestine gay relationship of one of Britain's best loved comedians – Frankie Howerd. Author Farrelly also brilliantly plays Dennis Heymer, the man in Howerd's life for forty years, who here conjures up the ghost of the comic. It is made abundantly clear that enormous work went into Howerd's act with every tiny moment being predetermined; it is equally apparent that just as much work has gone into Simon Cartwright's wonderfully realistic assumption of the role. Each nuance is perfect without becoming a caricature. Helped by impeccable sound and lighting, and as directed by Joe Harmston, we are conducted through the two men's lives both on stage and off. Farrelly and Cartwright hold us enthralled from the moment Frankie's lugubrious face first peers around a corner to the sad ending which manages to avoid that 'tears of a clown' cliché. Howerd's nonconformist style of comedy predated Eddie Izzard and even The Goons but anticipates their work. Nothing in his act appeared to be scripted, but the only thing that wasn't deliberate was his self-loathing and his guilt-wracked hidden life with Dennis. Their deep, occasionally turbulent love for each other is made apparent but avoids becoming maudlin; a titter is rarely far away. If you see better performances or a more insightful play this year or next, you will be very lucky. This homage to a unique and legendary performer is an excellent way to launch this delightful, new theatre on the London scene. Quite frankly, Howerd's End is simply tremendous entertainment.

Rated: ★★★★★ 

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Jacky Summerfield.

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