Robert Tanitch reviews Rory Mullarkey’s Mates in Chelsea at Royal Court Theatre, London.

Robert Tanitch reviews Rory Mullarkey’s Mates in Chelsea at Royal Court Theatre, London.

Rory Mullarkey admits to being a committed socialist but his satire on the English upper classes is poor stuff and the claque’s artificially loud laughter on the press night became more and more irritating.

Theodore ‘Tug’ Bungay (Laurie Kynaston), a member of the idle rich, who declares he is a professional viscount and that being an aristocrat is his vocation and a full-time job. Living, as he does, a life of champagne and caviar, his allowance is running out and he is in serious financial trouble.

He has been engaged to a rich girl for seven years. He has a housekeeper (Amy Booth-Steel) who is a Marxist and sings the Russian national anthem. His best mate (George Fouracres) is a gay Wodehousian silly idiot who loves to go native when he goes abroad. He has just returned home dressed as an Afghan tribesman.

Much of Tug’s dialogue is a tiresome pastiche of Oscar Wilde. He speaks like Algernon does in The Importance of Being Earnest. His mother (Fenella Woolgar) speaks like Lady Bracknell. She has put the family’s Northumbrian castle up for sale and a Russian oligarch is about to buy it. Three people get into disguise and pretend to be the Russian oligarch.

During the interval, Mummy plays badminton on stage with her native French speaking account manager, who is also her lover. The play goes on far too long after it has finished, changing key completely in its final moments and getting more and more violent.

There was a time when you could go to The Royal Court Theatre and see the premieres of plays by Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, J M Barrie, Harley Granville Barker, Arthur Wing Pinero, Elizabeth Robins, Elizabeth Baker, St John Hankin, W B Yeats, and new translations of Euripides.

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