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Salad Days review at Richmond Theatre, London – ‘lively revival of an old-fashioned musical’

Wendi Peters in Salad Days at Richmond Theatre, London. Photo: Mark Senior

The world has changed a great deal since Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds wrote Salad Days just as the era it was gently satirising was drawing to an end.

It’s a musical homage to a simpler time, spawned in the shadow of the 1951 Festival of Britain and steeped in nostalgia. A successful revival needs careful handling and there are moments in Bryan Hodgson’s production, originally staged at the Union, that work really well. The gauche sincerity of lead characters Timothy and Jane’s romance may be quirky, but it’s played for real and, as such, forms the basis of the rest of the story.

With leading man Mark Anderson indisposed, understudy Lewis McBean as Timothy makes light work of Joanne McShane’s dance routines. McBean and Jessica Croll as Jane put their own stamp on Slade’s catchy score. While the music survives, some of the comedy scenes tend to drag, despite some chameleon-like character acting from Wendi Peters. Thankfully the second half throws up the hilarious Maeve Byrne as cabaret turn Asphynxia to lighten the mood, while Francesca Pim provides comedy gold as the game debutante Fiona.

Mike Lees’ costumes brightly pinpoint the era but Tim Deiling’s lighting, vital for capturing that plein-air ambience, is a hit-and-miss affair with far too much dark space on the stage. Those familiar with the show’s amusing flying-saucer effect will also be sorely disappointed.

However, while there’s no doubt that Salad Days is an old-fashioned musical, there’s enough talent, wit and invention here to sustain a healthy tour.

Verdict
Lively revival with strong leads and plenty of laughs along the way

Production

Production
Salad Days
Venue
Richmond Theatre
City
London
Starts
September 10, 2018
Ends
September 15, 2018, then touring until November 17, 2018
Press night
September 11, 2018
Book
Dorothy Reynolds, Julian Slade
Music
Julian Slade
Lyrics
Dorothy Reynolds, Julian Slade
Director
Bryan Hodgson
Musical director
Dan Smith
Choreographer
Joanne McShane
Set
Mike Lees
Lighting
Tim Deiling
Sound
Tony Gayle Audio
Costume
Mike Lees
Technical
Andy Morris (sound technician)
Stage manager
Andy Taylor (deputy stage manager)
Cast includes
Wendi Peters, Lewis McBean, Jessica Croll, James Gulliford, Francesca Pim, Callum Evans, Maeve Byrne
Casting
Adam Braham
Producer
Regan De Wynter
Running time
2hrs 30mins