Review: Salad Days, Riverside Studios

"There is joy in the air so begone with dull care"

There’s always something of a delicious pleasure in being able to revisit much loved productions and so it proved with Tête à Tête’s production of Salad Days which proved to be a slow-burning but considerable success at the Riverside Studios two winters ago. The Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds penned musical is a true old-school English classic, highly tuneful (even if you don’t know any of the songs before you go in, I guarantee you’ll be able to hum at least of three of them as you leave) and somewhat barmy in its daffy plotting which takes one of the most unexpected turns I think I’ve ever seen in a show.

But what makes it soar into musical theatre heaven is the entirely straight bat with which Bill Bankes-Jones directs the whole affair. There’s not a drop of cynicism to be found in this Hammersmith studio, from the cheery earnestness of Timothy and Jane, its leading couple who leave university to find love through a magic piano (I did say it was daffy) to Quinny Sacks’ wonderfully effervescent (and inclusive) choreography to the joy of hearing such a large ensemble singing entirely unmiked. It is simply just joyous.

I’ve written about the show twice before, reviews which you can read here and here, and as the production has remained largely the same, I will for once keep it relatively brief here. In a company in which there really are no weak links, the stand-out for me is Katie Moore’s Jane, who once again pitches her performance just right with an unflagging chirpiness and a gorgeously crystalline soprano dazzling the audience. Leo Miles steps into the shoes of Timothy with an equally beaming bonhomie and it is near impossible to tumble for their immense charm.

And that charm extends across the multiple roles that the rest of the ensemble cover. Whether Tony Timberlake’s dancing Inspector or hard-nosed politician, Charlie Cameron’s hapless Rowena or Kathryn Martin’s seductive nightclub singer, there’s delight at every turn. Matthew Hawksworth’s mysterious tramp and Ellie Robertson’s spirited Fiona stood out for me and the delectably handsome Mark Inscoe pulls off silver like no other man I know. 

My only real caveat of the evening was the slight disappointment that the whole company from two years wasn’t able to reunite for this revival. The likes of Sam Harrison, Spencer O’Brien and the divine Rebecca Caine were particular pleasures for me so I was sorry for them not to be able to reprise their roles, especially in a production that felt so similar to the one in which I originally saw them. But regardless, Salad Days remains an absolute joy to watch, a refreshing breath of uncynical fresh air and about as tip-top a super time as you’re likely to have in Hammersmith.

Running time: 2 hous 34 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £2.50
Booking until 2nd March

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