Of course, it is the average night in a cabbie’s life that yields the most fun and games. But for maximum mirth and mayhem, fast forward to Christmas Eve.
With a wealth of material to work on, all gathered first hand, they produced the most hilarious script based around a taxi driver’s encounters with Christmas Eve revelers. These include an Elvis impersonator, a merry widow, a gorgeous young party girl, and equally …erm …gorgeous transvestite, a prostitute, a naked stage party victim and the obligatory grumpy Santa.
Night Collar has aired four times at the Royal Court over the last ten years, each time resulting in packed houses. And with director Bob Eaton at the helm and comedy genius Alan Stokes at the wheel of the taxi, this particular production is surely destined to break box office records.
Alan plays a blinder. His monologue at the start of the show didn’t just set the scene, it was, in its own right, as good a stand-up comedy routine as you will ever see.
As the play progressed, it struck me as ironic that although I’ve always considered Alan Stokes to be one of the best “stage drunks” that I’ve ever seen, in this show he plays the only character that is not inebriated!
The lovely Suzanne Collins portrayed two deliciously different drunks, first as the dolled up Doe at war with her beau Joe, and then as a very pissed prostitute offering the cabbie an alternative method of payment.
The wife-battered Joe was played brilliantly by Michael Ledwich before changing character to become the fast-talking scouse likely lad – yer know warra mean, like – and then a very convincing tranny. After seeing him act the part of a pot-smoking polar bear in “Scouse of the Antarctic” recently you just know he can play just about any character the directors care to throw at him!
You want a wino, a grumpy Santa and an Elvis impersonator? Cue Jake Abraham. As the latter he shone brightly – Ah ha. There were puns aplenty, countless comedy quips and even a song or two from Jake in the style of The King!
Like most of the cast, seasoned actress Eithne Browne was making her umpteenth appearance at the Royal Court. Her performances could not have been more diverse tonight, from the ridiculously funny wheelchair-bound awld lady being pushed by her blind son (Lenny Wood) to the sublimely acted part of the sad spinster dying of cancer.
And speaking of Lenny Wood. Well what can I say. Even without a brilliant script such as this, Lenny has the ability to make you fall about laughing with just a look or a gesture. His first appearance was not actually up on the stage but down in the auditorium mingling with the audience as a “Big Issue” seller. The way he toyed with some of the unsuspecting ladies in the front rows was pure comedy gold.
The big scene stealer though, came when Lenny, playing the stag night victim, staggered on to the stage stark naked except for a Christmas hat and a strategically held ball and chain. Coming as it did right as the end of a show brimming with slapstick, punch lines and belly laughs, it practically guaranteed the standing ovation that followed.
So if you fancy a little Christmas cheer during this merry month of May, get along to the Royal Court. You won’t be taken for a ride and you will get to see one of the finest comedies to come out of Scouseland!
And speaking of scouse… if you book a seat in the “cabaret style” stalls of this fabulous theatre, for an extra tenner you can be served up with a bowl of lovely traditional scouse or one of half a dozen other excellent dishes on the menu.
Footnote: Co-writer Tony Furlong sadly passed away last August, aged 53, following a fall at his home. He would have been proud of the superb job the cast, director, producers, designers and stage crew have done with his script.