The Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2002
'One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas I don't know.'
When your starting point is a film as brilliantly witty and anarchic as Animal Crackers, you have to be pretty inept not to come up with a fun production.
Thankfully, the Marx Brother's finest is in safe hands with this vivacious student troupe.
The movie, which started life as a stage production, has been further adapted by these Oxford undergrads, including the very welcome move of writing out Zeppo entirely.
Proceedings are introduced with a somewhat stilted scene set in a theatrical office, and highlights from other Marx Brothers movies - such as the Sanity Clause skit from A Night At The Opera - have been weaved into the plot.
This was only ever going to be as good as its Groucho, and James Wilton's cheery ebullience keeps things moving at a cracking pace.
Andy King also brings the right level of spirited physicality to the silent but deadly Harpo, and Johnny Lewsley proves a solid Chico, though he never really shines in the presence of the others - a problem the real Marx brother also had.
The only thing the cast really lacks is a real battleaxe of a Mrs Rittenhouse - Jessie Burton is valiantly snooty, but she's way too svelte and good-looking to ever fill Margaret Dumont's sizeable slingbacks.
Animal Crackers first hit the stage 72 years ago, but the script has certainly weathered well, and this production is done with such spirited pizzazz that it's easy to forget its great age.
Hooray for Captain Spaulding!
Date of review: Aug 2002