Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Review: Not Lady Chatterley's Lover at the Greenwich Theatre, 1st November 2021

Not Lady Chatterley's Lover reviewed by David James
Rating: 1 Stars

There's a brand of bourgeois British comedy that I find as fun as having needles jammed under my fingernails. Think Radio 4 on a Sunday afternoon, a 7pm ITV sitcom, or Carry On. Happy Idiot's Not Lady Chatterley's Lover lands squarely in this territory and about five minutes in I realized with a doom-like curl of dread the nightmare I'd signed up for.

The show parodies D.H. Lawrence's 1928 novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, more famous for the 1960 obscenity trial than its merits as a piece of literature. Lawrence's book skewers British class, centering on the intense sexual relationship between Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper Mellors. All that comes alongside a then-progressive view of sexuality, frank descriptions of sex acts, and a gradual dismantling of the idea that fucking is something to ashamed of.

Not Lady Chatterley's Lover clearly disagrees, sticking to the British default of being incapable of talking with sex without resorting to tired innuendo and double entendres. It's 2021 for god's sake, we should be able to talk about sex without stammering out vaguely transphobic jokes about men in fishnet stockings. The inability to deal with this is eventually proven when they quote Lawrence directly, then smirk and toss the book off stage, dismissing the explicit dialogue as "weird". 

Perhaps I'm taking a goofy comedy too seriously, but it's not like we're inundated with stage adaptations of Lady Chatterley's Lover and - despite being smothered by inane gags - the skeleton of Lawrence's story is still compelling. But that factor results in constant friction between the source material and the comedy.

Most obvious are the continual gags about people with disabilities. The inciting incident for the book Lord Chatterley has been injured in World War I and is now paralysed from the waist down. This is naturally a source of continual gags at the expense of people in wheelchairs, with particular hilarity drawn from the fact that he's now also impotent. 

To be fair, this did lead to the single funniest aspect of the evening: that there was a guy from the Royal Legion selling poppies in the theatre lobby. I wonder what he'd have made of the well-to-do Greenwich crowd chortling away at the antics of the traumatised veteran and his ruined marriage.

I don't really have much more to say because the experience just made me kinda sad about what can pass for comedy. For the sake of honesty I should say that most of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, so this crap obviously appeals to someone. 

The most positive thing about the night was reaching the interval and discovering - to my intense relief - that my girlfriend hated it just as much as I did. Having a press ticket means I'm dutybound to stick around until the final curtain, but she got to duck out and go home early. Still, if nothing else this was a great sense of humour litmus test: if she'd been guffawing alongside the hogs in that theatre it'd have been time to reconsider the relationship.

So yeah, total shite. Avoid.

Not Lady Chatterley's Lover is now on tour. Tickets here etc etc.

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