REVIEW: THE PHILANTHROPIST (Trafalgar Studios) ★★★

The PhilanthropistFor any avid TV viewers, going to see The Philanthropist is a no brainier.

Stars of The IT Crowd, The Inbetweeners, Fresh Meat and Plebs all come together in this 1970’s comedy by Christopher Hampton, currently being directed by Simon Callow at Trafalgar Studios.

The Prime Minister has just been assassinated, along with half of the cabinet, mowed down by a crazed gun man. Philip and Donald recently witnessed a man shoot himself in the head in front of them but life goes on…

Philip and Celia are having a dinner party with a very special guest, outspoken author Braham and friends Araminta and Donald. Personalities clash and the night ends in a hotbed of infidelity causing relationships to be assessed in the aftermath of it all.

Simon Bird (Philip) and Charlotte Ritchie (Celia) both do good jobs in their roles and deliver the lines well. Matt Berry (Brahman) is amusing as the eccentric writer who has made his living out of making shock statements about people. Lily Cole (Araminta) is brilliant as the sex addict who has no emotional connection to the act.

Lowenna Melrose only makes a brief appearance in the show as Elizabeth. She has no lines and wasn’t necessary to have appear in the show. Her character is a part of the story but she need not have been on stage. The fact her understudy in the show is actually the Assistant Director says everything about how much acting experience is actually required for the role. John Steward also only appears in the opening scene as John and is totally underused. Both of the actors also double up as understudies for the various lead roles and so it is understandable that someone has thought “we may as well use them as we are paying them anyway” but actually it becomes frustrating for the audience who spend time questioning their relevance in the show instead of focusing on the story.

The set design by Libby Watson is commendable, with a bright living room setting with slanted book shelves and a slanted ceiling, representing the message of the show of the skiewed way we look at life. The way the sex addict blames her hobby on her being raped by her father as a child, the way a couple look at their relationship and even the way the famous author views his not being on the list of writers a crazy man is planning to kill, as offensive.

The Philanthropist isn’t a bad show. There are some very funny moments and the concept of the piece is an interesting one. Definitely worth going to see if you like the sound of it.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

The Philanthropist plays at Trafalgar Studios until 22 July 2017