Cream Tea and Incest review at Hope Theatre, London – ‘charming PG Wodehouse pastiche’
Channelling PG Wodehouse and Boy’s Own adventures, Cream Tea and Incest is an eccentric farrago that, like its off-colour title, proves an acquired taste.
Writer Benjamin Alborough is Eddie Spangler, a buffoonish, overgrown schoolboy in a candy-striped boating blazer. Meanwhile, Eoin McAndrew plays bow-tied butler Jeffrey with obsequious aplomb – if not quite exuding the all-knowing aura of the inimitable Jeeves. Together, they set off on an unexpectedly murderous caper involving unrequited love, unclaimed inheritances and an opium plantation in Rhodesia.
The high camp hijinks continue when the duo arrive at the country pile of Lord Wiggins (Aidan Cheng), a spangle-trousered, lovelorn fop who dithers between his Marxist principles and downright avarice. Edward Spence completes the cast as his evil younger brother, as well as a host of other quickfire characters.
While Alborough’s writing captures some Jeeves and Wooster-style absurdity, the humour veers towards the surreal rather than Wodehousian wit, and the preposterous plot has holes large enough to drive a bus through. The cast shows decent comic timing with silly slapstick routines and multiple sight gags, though female characters are almost entirely lacking. It feels as if a few domineering aunts or simpering flappers wouldn’t go amiss.
Olivia Rose Deane and Francesca Leone’s cartoonish, cut-out set is a good match for the show’s comic-book aesthetic, with cardboard props ingeniously deployed throughout.
The cast’s energy rather than the writing propels this show. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a diverting hour’s entertainment.