"The Odd Couple, nineties Style"
by Cameron Dunham for remotegoat on 27/01/14

What an eclectic evening Hoxton’s Courtyard Theatre had to offer on Saturday 25th January! Upon arrival, my companion and I, both decked out for the cold in winter coats and scarves, were asked if we were break dancers, here to partake in an evening of New York break beats and body popping. Obvious oversight corrected, we were ushered upstairs into the theatre area to watch the thoroughly enjoyable “Rupert and Me”, a deliberate and, mainly, successful reworking of the classic “The Odd Couple”. This time the mismatched couple consists of former pop star Johnny: a lazy but likeable slob who is living off the rapidly diminishing returns of former glory; and Rupert: a neurotic OCD type who is taken in by Johnny after being turfed out by his wife.

As the audience filtered in, the action onstage was already underway with a lads’ poker game about to start in Johnny’s slovenly living room. This improvised scene set the high standard for the performances to follow with Lee Chapman, who also wrote the play, effortlessly imbuing Johnny with an essence of blokey Peter Pan. The supporting cast are good too with Valentine Taylor, playing “hard as nails” roadie Gaz, and Grant Stone, providing a surprising moral voice in accountant Liam, both proving very watchable.

Unsurprisingly, it is the arrival of Rupert, superbly nuanced by Drew McCurren, which lights the touch paper on the fun and frolics to follow. His anxiety ridden uber square is so completely at odds with Johnny’s idle brand of hedonism that one wonders how the two manage to exist in the same universe, let alone be best friends. From here, the narrative is wholly predictable but no less enjoyable owing to engaging performances; a string of largely, amusing one liners; thoughtful production values (I liked the recorded dialogues that peppered the show) and a subtle “guess the year” aspect to the nineties context, which certainly kept me, and other members of the audience in a certain age bracket, entertained.

“Rupert and Me” sets its stall out very firmly as a piece of light, comedy drama: Johnny moves into his catharsis as smoothly as he strips down to his briefs, whilst dancing to a time tunnel of nineties hits; this may not be the most thought provoking piece of theatre you’ll see this year but you’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.

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