In 1990 Liverpool decorators Dave Thelwell, Jimmy Conception and Jimmy Forshaw were contracted to renovate Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad.
Star review: ***
Venue: theSpace @ Symposium Hall (Venue 43)
The money dried up when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August of that year and Dave and his mates were subsequently taken hostage, much to the distress of their wives back home. Not an obvious subject for a comedy, but Mike Howl’s consistently funny play captures the indefatigable good-humour of these likely lads.
Faced with kicking their heels in Baghdad, they set about transforming a deserted hotel into a nightclub with materials “borrowed” from the palace. This is sharply performed and confidently directed by Howl; the stage is dominated by a living portrait of Saddam (codenamed “Eric” so the lads can slag him off to their wives on the phone) who is enjoyably – if not, uh, entirely accurately – played here by Thelwell himself. Smartly, the play gives just as much weight to the plight of the lads’ wives and while it never gets overtly serious there’s a sweet dramatic heart to proceedings.
While the fast pace manages to cram a lot into an hour without feeling too rushed, you suspect that this may be a draft for a future expanded production, although it’s hard to imagine one with a more winning ensemble.
Until 20 August. Today 11:40am.