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Elton John’s Glasses review at Watford Palace Theatre – ‘uneven farce about football and failure’

Scene from Elton John's Glasses at Watford Palace Theatre. Photo: Peter Byrne Scene from Elton John's Glasses at Watford Palace Theatre. Photo: Peter Byrne

David Farr’s hectic 1996 football comedy Elton John’s Glasses – here given its first UK revival by Psyche Stott – is a game of two halves.

The first sags under the weight of that most cardinal of farce crimes: an incredible scenario with a clumsy, contrived set-up. The second papers over the cracks with a wickedly funny, whirlwind opening and a downbeat, bittersweet denouement.

Bill (Niall Costigan) is a lapsed Watford FC fan, haunted by the club’s defeat in the 1984 FA Cup Final – a loss attributed here to an untimely sun-glare bouncing off the specs of Watford’s illustrious, onlooking chairman and into the eyes of goalkeeper Steve Sherwood.

Bill’s sad, secluded life is rudely interrupted, first by his estranged brother Dan and his hapless bandmates, then by a lonely teenage girl wanting a kickaround, then by his once-a-week girlfriend Julie, who turns up at his drab house every Saturday with shopping and a desire for sex. Complications ensue, as the roars from the Watford stadium at nearby Vicarage Road bleed through the windows.

Stott’s direction is sharp enough, and the cast occasionally manages to spark some ropey dialogue into life, but the whole thing feels forced and false from the start.

It’s only in the freer, funnier second half that things pick up. Some genuinely good, believable farce breaks out, the performances – particularly from Leon Williams’ slick Dan and Joanna Croll’s fretful Julie – go up a notch, and, by the unexpectedly moving conclusion, Stott has squeezed enough funny-juice from Farr’s play to just about justify its reappearance.

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Uneven farce about football and failure that suffers from clumsy contrivance