Review – One Was Nude and One Wore Tails

The Theatre of Heaven and Hell in Dario Fo’s One Was Nude and One Wore Tails

Isn’t pub theatre great? It’s been a couple of years and I should go more often. The intimacy of performance, the power of actors giving their all in such confined spaces and the feeling your presence really matters. This time it was to the Hen and Chickens in Islington for the Theatre of Heaven and Hell’s latest production, Dario Fo’s One Was Nude and One Wore Tails.

The character tantalisingly called ‘Naked Man’ in the programme is in fact to be found  performing throughout and protecting his modesty from inside a large yellow council wheelie bin. An ambassador in temporarily (he hopes) reduced circumstances, a road sweeper finds him in his bin. He’s hiding there having been forced to make a hurried exit, naked save his gold watch and top hat, from his lover’s home on the return of her husband. Unable to return to his own wife without the tails he was wearing when he left, he enters into a both philosophical and practical discussion with the road sweeper, whose bin it is, about how he can both acquire some tails and get home.

The roadsweeper has in a previous discussion arrived at the view that because he is nothing and nothingness represents the beginning of existence, he is in fact God. In the end, after meeting a flower seller on a bike, it is the road sweeper who ends up wearing tails. He encounters a prostitute who now finds him strangley attractive. Because he looks like an ambassador he is treated like one. But by becoming something he has also ceased to be nothing.

The play explores actual and perceived status. The naked man demands others defer to his status as an ambassador, even as he sits naked in a rubbish bin. We already know he is morally compromised and, without his tails, he is doomed either to live in the bin or be exposed.

Darren Ruston, in his bin, gives a tremendously unconfined performance, barely keeping his temper in check as he realises the weakness of his new position. Nicholas Bright, as the road sweeper whose own status benefits from this, grows in confidence as the play goes on. At the same time he retains a sort of twinkly innocence which I find reminiscent of a young Michael Crawford (but then Charlie Stemp in Half a Sixpence had the same effect on me, so perhaps it’s just my age!). Brian Eastty plays a fellow road sweeper and also a patrolman with easy authority in both roles. Jake Francis is delightfully confused and phased by being asked to sell his tail coat to a naked man in a bin. And Elena Clements falls convincingly for the road sweeper turned ambassador.

One was Nude & One Wore Tails will be running at the Hen and Chickens Theatre until the 18th March. You can buy tickets here.


Review: The Go-Between

With only days left until the end of its run there is just time to catch The Go-Between at the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue. Although many will book solely on the strength of Michael Crawford’s presence in the West End, it offers so much more than that – great though it is to see him, especially as he’s on stage pretty much throughout.

Gemma Sutton, William Thompson, Michael Crawford

Crawford is Leo Colton, a man haunted by events one childhood summer when he found himself acting as go-between for beautiful upper-class Marian (Gemma Sutton) and tenant farmer Ted (Stuart Ward). These events are played out in front of him on a moody and imposing single-set stage with music provided by an on-stage piano. So, very far from the spectacular musicals in which Crawford established himself. But the lack of spectacle is more than made up for in the intimacy and intensity of the characters and story. It achieves that rare thing to which all theatre surely strives – transporting the audience completely into the events and emotions with the performers.

Crawford re-lives the joys and stresses of that summer both when he is centre stage but also, and perhaps most tellingly, when he is simply a bystander to his own past, watching the action. Crawford knows he is a star presence and uses that, so even in those moments where his past life is being acted out by others his being on the stage adds to rather than detracts from the action.

Equally compelling was young Leo, at this performance played with grace and confidence by Luka Green. He has a very physical role, allowing himself to be picked-up and carried about the stage in a several of the musical numbers. Equally engaging was Samuel Menhinick as his best friend Marcus.

So by all means go because you want to see one of our greatest stars of musical theatre, but come away having been taken with him back to a magical and significant long-gone summer.

The Go-Between is at The Apollo theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue until 15 October 2016. Tickets and further information available at