“They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent”
There’s something a little curious about Celia Imrie’s Laughing Matters, a cabaret show in all but nature, which means it never quite satisfies in the way one yearns for it to do so. In the intimate surroundings of the Crazy Coqs, she rattles through a selection of comic songs and extracts from her 2011 autobiography The Happy Hoofer but with so little audience interaction until the very end, this revue feels a little sterile rather than offering the personal insight that more seasoned cabaret performers bring to the table.
That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable experience, I really rather liked it, but rather it needs to be taken more as a kind of vanity project and Lord knows, she has paid her dues. Her personal anecdotes are chucklesome if not particularly revelatory and her choice of songs wisely errs on the patter side of things – she’d be the first to say she’s hardly the strongest singer although she did win an Olivier for Best Supporting Role in A Musical for Acorn Antiques, which simply demonstrates her considerable comic capabilities.
And that’s what comes across her, a mischievous smile and a twinkle in the eye through Alan Melville’s numbers like Which Witch and Common Talk and standards like Noël Coward’s There Are Bad Times Around The Corner, Hermione Gingold’s Madame La Palma, the Lady Snake Charmer right through to the finale All Over The Place with its paper hats for all. Costume changes and muscular male dancer add to the cheekiness quotient (as well as the overly structured format) so one can’t really complain too much, especially in seeing such a national treasure-in-waiting close up.