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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Trafalgar Studios

By Patrick Marmion

  John Simm/PH: Alatair Muir

You'd never think from this soft-centered Norwegian comedy that losing your marbles would be anything more than a big wacky adventure. That's certainly how it comes across in Simon Bent's adaptation of the Oscar nominated film which was based on a novel by Ingvar Ambjornsen . It's the story of two men who are released from a mental hospital to make their way in the big bad city of Oslo.

They are a typical odd couple: Elling, a hypersensitive poet devoted to his dead mother, and Kjell Bjarne, a hulking great goofball with a bear-like libido. Too timid even to answer the phone, they get reality coaching from a hard boiled social worker who doesn't rate their chances of survival. But you may guess from the fact that the film was nominated for an Oscar that the duo prove him wrong.

The play is blessed with funny lines such as ‘logic is the enemy of reason', but it's little more than a sentimental fantasy of innocence. That of course is one of the reasons for its popularity and its transfer from the tiny Bush Theatre to its new West End location. The other reason is the casting of John Simm- a rising star of British television who played the lead in Life on Mars, a cult drama about the Seventies.

Simm is wholly endearing as the sweet, uptight Elling - like Niles from Frasier, touched with Rowan Atkinson's dim-witted Mr Bean. Meanwhile, his goofy partner is played in a self-consciously sparko manner by Adrian Bower. Paul Miller's production is meant to persuade us of the innate, cuddly genius of the mad. But where that is a crowd-pleasing idea, it's hardly rooted in reality.

Go, but only for the sugar rush.


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