Keith? review at Arcola Theatre, London – ‘a tepid and flippant farce’
Drawing heavily on Moliere’s fearlessly irreverent satires, Patrick Marmion’s Keith? is a flippant farce revolving around a South African arms dealer passing himself off as a new age guru. He also happens to be a personification of Dionysus, though one whose sexual ambiguity and need to punish vanity are left under-explored.
Comparisons with Anil Gupta’s bold 2018 reframing of Tartuffe for the Royal Shakespeare Company are unavoidable – both stick close to the source material while riffing on contemporary tensions around race and religion. But for all its name-checking of current social issues – transphobia, climate change denial, online trolling – this is a tepid and thoroughly traditional comedy.
Director Oscar Pearce sets the energy level high and quickly whips things up into ludicrous silliness as hitmen are hired and unlikely secrets are exposed. The production toes a fine line here, ridiculing lazy stereotypes by presenting them at their most grotesque. Lizzie Winkler’s work-shy, dictatorship-loving Brazilian cleaner Anna is an outrageous and deeply uncomfortable comic creation.
Mark Jax manages to remain strangely likeable as the bewildered and blissfully ignorant millionaire being taken for a ride, while Natalie Klamar fizzes with repressed entitlement as his daughter Roxy, unable to perceive the incompatibility between her all-embracing morality and the conservative lifestyle she craves.
Fittingly, Joseph Millson dominates the show as the titular con artist, all wolfish grins and charismatic confidence, concealed by a persuasive layer of false modesty. Ultimately, he’s the architect of his own comeuppance, restoring balance to a world of seemingly intractable intolerance.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.