Saturday, 10 March 2012

Adelaide Fringe Review - The Right Dishonourable Dickie Daventry

Adelaide Fringe Review - The Right Dishonourable Dickie Daventry at The Austral (The Bunka) Saturday 10 March

Having spent a bright and beautiful Saturday buried in the bowels of the Barr Smith Library researching Singapore's historic role in ASEAN, it is not hard to imagine that I was approaching my appointment with the Right Honourable Dickie with something approaching gay abandon.  A hour or so in his company brightened my day considerably.

The former Tory MP and all-round old school cad is the wonderful comic creation of actor Dave Lemkin.  Part Alan Clark, part Sir Rowley Birkin, part Lord Morgan of Glossop (spot the odd one out), this is intelligent and thoughtful comedy that somehow seemed entirely out of place in a back room at The Austral - if only he could have appeared at the Royal Institution (the former Adelaide Stock Exchange) all would have been perfect (there are rooms there decked out with Chesterfields and wing back armchairs!)

Ostensibly, the show is a political memoir and the Rt. Hon. Dickie takes us through his life and career - Eton (buggered senseless), Christchurch College, Oxford (buggered senseless) and then, with remorseless inevitably, into the upper echelons of the Conservative Party.  Along the way, we hear about his marriage to Marjorie (drowned in a sea of her own lesbianism), his feckless children and his rampant sexual encounters with Margaret Thatcher that involved Dickie dressing up as Breshnev on the outskirts of Wolverhampton (it's hard to work out which part of that is the most frightening!)

This is a beautifully imagined character in the Wodehousian tradition, and appropriately Mr Lemkin uses language and verbal dexterity with great aplomb.  Having known one or two chaps in my time not that far removed from Dickie,  everything about Mr Lemkin's creation resonated, from the genteel poverty suggested by the slightly shabby tweeds that had seen better days, to the hair with a mind of its own (a la the Mayor of London), although I am afraid that I had to take exception with his shoes which were clearly not from John Lobb as one would reasonably expect from a man of Dickie's pedigree.

The fact that I would appear to be engaging with this character on a level that takes almost no account of Mr Lemkin's contribution to the entertainment goes to show just what a fine portrait he has created.  This was old-fashioned character acting and story-telling of the first order.  The fogeyish inability to engage with a mobile phone, the condescending attitude towards the colonies and the muddled retelling of one of the funniest 'An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman go into a pub...' jokes you will ever hear all added up to a splendid entertainment that was thoroughly engaging and inordinately witty.  My only regret is that it didn't go on for longer - a long convivial lunch and a dangerous third bottle in the company of the Right Honourable Dickie Daventry would be the perfect way to unwind on a late summer's afternoon.