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Mr Monkey sees You Can't Take It With You at the Royal Exchange Theatre, 12th December

Mr Monkey looking at the You Can't Take It With You poster inside the theatre Alice (Sarah Ridgeway) explaining her plans to Martin Vanderhof (Christopher Benjamin) (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo) Mr Monkey went into Manchester for the press night of You Can't Take It With You at the Royal Exchange Theatre. This production is presented by the Royal Exchange in association with the Told By An Idiot theatre company.

Popping inside quickly because it was dark and wet outside, Mr Monkey looked at a poster to check he had the right night, then scurried up to the Mezzanine Gallery to see Layered before settling down to wait for the play to start.

A Pulitzer prize-winning play written in 1936 by George Kaufman and Moss Hart, the action of You Can't Take It With You takes place over a few days, all in the living room of a New York brownstone owned by Martin Vanderhof.

The Vanderhofs are an odd family. Martin, a banker who suddenly discovered the error of his ways is a genial patriarch who wants his family to do whatever makes them happy; his daughter Penelope dabbles in the arts, never quite finishing a painting or a novel; her husband, Paul, makes fireworks. Ed plays with a printing press, while his wife Alice incessantly practices ballet dancing. Only Alice, Martin's granddaughter, engages with the mundane world, working as a secretary in the Kirby Corporation.

The action of the play is the result of Alice falling in love with her boss, who in best romantic comedy tradition just happens to be the son of the head of the corporation, and inviting his parents to dinner. Hilarious consequnces, including a night in jail for most of the cast, ensue.

You Can't Take It With You is very funny - an energetic, larger than life, but somehow convincing comedy. George Kaufman wrote the screenplays of A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races for the Marx Brothers and co-wrote two of their most famous stage shows, and this shows in You Can't Take It With You. The production is commendably physical, with as much movement as wisecrackery, and includes a certain amount of good-natured and well-received audience participation.

Lighting and sound effects are excellent, and there are some interesting pyrotechnics, as you'd expect with a firework factory in the attic. Set design and props are also convincing; Mr Monkey was particularly impressed by the enormous Meccano model of the Queen Mary, which looks like it's made from original period Meccano, and by the snake that lives on the hat-stand.

There are some slightly surreal musical interludes, which strangely reminded Mr Monkey of seeing GOOD earlier in the season, most of which allow the cast to rearrange the scenery with more grace than their characters show in the rest of the play.

You Can't Take It With You is a team performance, all the actors playing their roles brilliantly, as the script requires. The pace of screwball comedy demands perfect timing and this cast rise to the challenge. Mr Monkey feels that Denton Chikura deserves special mention for playing three men simultaneously (particularly as it involved hat juggling).

All in all, You Can't Take It With You is an excellent night out, and an uplifting drama for the Christmas/New Year holiday period. Mr Monkey intends to look out for other productions by Told By An Idiot.
Exuburant dancing by the entire cast (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo)

You Can't Take It With You runs until January 14th 2012.

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