As well as their considerable talents, the cast of the RMDS Soirée have one terrific advantage: the party atmosphere that surrounds the event. Surely every member of the society, all their families and all their friends turn out to support it. Many of them arrive early with picnic suppers, the bar staff are rushed off their feet and by the time the curtain goes up, the theatre is already filled with congeniality and goodwill.
The show is basically two hours of non-stop jokes, some in the form of short sketches, some strung together as longer scenes and some done as stand-up to cover scene changes. Most of the jokes work, although inevitably a few don’t. It is generally the short sketches that are successful: ‘Gone fishin’, ‘Happily married?’ and my favourite, ‘Goodbye door’. The cleverest of the longer pieces is ‘Carry on camping’, which is wordless, so relies on visual gags and reveals some talented mimes among the cast. A surprising version of ‘Little Jimmy Brown’ goes down a storm with the audience – you will never look at kitchen utensils in the same light again. Nearly all the material is new (to me, anyway), although the four yokels in ‘The farm gate’ positively revel in the corniness of their script and bring it off well.
‘Not suitable for children’ is the health warning on the publicity and almost all the humour has a blueish tinge to it, while some of it is positively cerulean. Nothing is barred, including unsubtlety – never mind all the double entendres, there are plenty of singles entendres as well. There’s nothing wrong with blue jokes as long as they are good blue jokes and as long as there are not so many of them that they lose the power to shock. Most of these are good, but towards the end of the evening, I sensed that the laughter was slightly forced as yet another funny about poo, blow-jobs or erectile dysfunction came over the footlights.
No praise is high enough for the nine-strong cast. They are listed in the programme but not who does what, so I can’t praise individual performances by name, which is actually quite appropriate as this is very much an ensemble show. Everyone works their socks off for everyone else and quite apart from their talent, versatility, pace and energy, they are extremely well-rehearsed and have a huge amount to remember – not least the impressive choreography by Jane Howell.
And they can sing. Boy, can they sing! The men sound good in ‘Il prima donnas’, although it is basically a comic sketch, and the stand-out solo is ‘Whatever happened to my part’ from Spamalot. But in their singing, as in everything else, there is not a weak link, and the audience is sent out into the night by a terrific finale. The cast are discreetly supported by an excellent three-piece band led by musical director Jonathan Spratt.
The party atmosphere means that even the occasional technical hitch becomes a shared joke. Clearly many of the audience know many of the cast and there are some local references, but in-jokes are out and the evening can be enjoyed by anyone. It is well worth seeing for yourself at one of the remaining performances on 9-11 or 14-18 November at 8.00. Take along your picnic, so making it a soirée with a binge on top. (I’ve obviously been infected by the corniness of some of the jokes – soirée about that.)