Mark Davison’s gleefully bonkers comic play introduces us to two characters. Joan Rivers-voiced nonagenarian cabaret legend, Marcia Godella-Birdo is reliving past glories and hoping against hope that someone can save the theatre at which she made her name from demolition. Cheerful alien Mr Susie hasn’t a clue what cabaret is, but diligently spends an hour trying to save it.
Mr Susie’s Last Chance Cabaret is a charmingly ramshackle beast. Every trope is dusted off, affectionately mocked and subverted, as Mr Susie attempts dance, comedy, magic and song. Appropriately, he ropes some musically clueless members of the audience to bang and clatter some accompaniment; although the bloke on the bongos was immense…
The episodic structure of the show is a little rigid, and doesn’t allow for any real narrative surprise, which is a shame given the otherwise loose and anything-goes feel of the show. Indeed, it’s so loose it often seems like it could collapse like a house of cards at any moment. This wasn’t helped by some technical gremlins, explained away by a clearly bemused Davison as Marcia suddenly needing to nip out for a bathroom break. Happily, it only added to the carnival atmosphere and normal service was soon resumed.
There are some terrific comic moments, shot through with an undercurrent of melancholy, thanks to the character of Marcia. She’s a slightly tragic figure next to the irrepressible Mr Susie, and prevents the show from becoming entirely madcap. In fact, she could have been utilised a little more.
Mr Susie’s Last Chance Cabaret rather grinds to a halt; although it ends on an appropriate bittersweet note with a good-old singalong. Polished it isn’t, but is impossible to resist such good-natured silliness.