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Review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels leaps from the silver screen to the West End...


Adapting films for the stage is a tricky business, so many theatre productions come and go that have been based on other properties. Offering something substantially different to the big screen experience is essential to a show's success. Which is precisely why Dirty Rotten Scoundrels works so well. Rather than treading the same water that Michael Caine and Steve Martin did in 1988, Jerry Mitchell's production has music and lyrics from David Yazbek which keeps you guessing as to where the plot could go next.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels revolves around Lawrence Jameson, a world weary con man who charms women in the seaside resort of Beaumont Sur Mer in order to extract as much cash as he can from them. After witnessing, Freddy, a younger hustler at work on a train, and discussing the art of the con Jameson's lust for the grift is reignited and the two get to work on a young American soap heiress.

Robert Lindsay is at the centre of the production, playing Lawrence Jameson with suitably seedy aplomb and a knowing look in his wry smile. Lindsay has always succeeded at playing characters that are both sublime and ridiculous, from Wolfie Smith (who we still have an adolescent crush on) to The Examiner in Spy, and Jameson is in the same vein. Delusions of grandeur plague him and elevate his sense of self above that of a common charlatan.

There are few people on the earth that can match a Steve Martin performance, especially in his 70s and 80s heyday, and wisely Rufus Hound doesn't aim to emulate his big screen predecessor. Instead he makes the role his own, with less machine gun prattle dialogue and more slapstick humour. Hound, who looks 15 years younger without that dreadful 'tache, is quite the revelation proving he has some acting chops to go with that irrepressible big mouth.

While the acting and tunes are tight and choreographed to within an inch of their life, the Scoundrels' charm begins to wane closer to the end of the first act. A plot turn involving a wealthy oil heiress from Oklahoma feels unfortunate and doesn't strike the notes in quite the way it could have.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a fun addition to the West End, the endlessly charming Lindsay and the ebullient Hound make a fantastic double act and David Yazbek's lyrics work brilliantly inside the plot. While it keeps the charm of the film, it has oodles of originality that make it a different spectacular beast.

Words: Joshua Hammond, @pictureshowmag

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