Here is a show to be admired, respected, enjoyed and cheered. Its value is immense.
Tony Lidington has researched many strands of popular entertainment and performed in them. Popular? He much prefers the term ‘low brow’, said with a ready and mischievous twinkle. Now, Lidington is on stage as Joseph Grimaldi, the original Joey the Clown. He sits on a chair and reminisces, not yet 50 years old, but his body wracked with crippling pain. Then, suddenly, he is Grimaldi in his prime, singing a pantomime song and the audience joining in with the cheeky words. Thereafter, Lidington makes the audience, individually and collectively, part of the show.
Lidington has Gary Bridgens on stage with him as a willing stooge and in the orchestra pit is Jake Rodrigues, playing upwards of 30 bizarre instruments. The atmosphere is knockabout jollity, leavened with the melancholy in the clown’s heart.
It is a heartening entertainment and instructive. Lidington explains the development of pantomime and of physical comedy without lecturing. We learn of the origin of the term slapstick and much else. Above all, we see Grimaldi’s importance. How he absorbed many skills and traditions. How he introduced his own ideas and then influenced the entertainers who were to follow. It is a compelling performance from Lidington, admirably structured and disciplined, yet played with enormous and infectious delight.
Well done to the Georgian Theatre Royal. Producing this show is a statement of artistic intent and an affirmation of its heritage.