Writer: Morag Fullarton
Director: Morag Fullarton
Reviewer: Georgina Newman
The Public Reviews Rating:
It’s a mean feat to recreate the tones of the 1942 Hollywood classic, Casablanca, within the confines of Islington’s Pleasance Theatre, but Gilded Balloon has achieved a marked evocation of the celebrated film.
Written and directed by Morag Fullarton, Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut is a colourful and irreverent spoof/send-up of the film that made household names of both Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In the space of just one hour, there’s a before feature: stories of pre-film production dilemmas, excerpts, nuggets of gossip and general trivia about the film itself, plus an impressive display of physical gags, accent improvisations, and a comical reuse of some of the most quotable lines in film history.
The main feature is a playful re-imagining of the film itself, a mocking homage to that enduring love story, and the state of a weary but fast-moving Morocco in 1941, with its hope of sidestepping the impending Nazi takeover, creeping like a cancer across Europe. The audience are transported back to that time, and it’s well-realised by an inventively staged set, an above-average script, and some fine imitation performances.
With only a trio of actors playing all the parts they certainly have their work cut out, but all three are commendable. Gavin Mitchell is a superlative Rick Blaine/Humphrey Bogart, imitating the actor in character to within an inch of his life. Endowed with the same hound dog expression, Mitchell is spot on in capturing Bogart’s treatment of Blaine: that special brand of embittered misanthropy, his eternal cynicism, his apparent whiskey problem, and his refusal to properly open his mouth when speaking.
Likewise Clare Waugh shines as she switches between Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Major Strasser. An undertaking which requires skill, Waugh is just as accomplished in playing the tearful, trembling ex-lover who admits “how much I still love you” to Rick as she is in playing the strapping Strasser of The Third Reich, whose most memorable line seems to be “where’s my swastika?”
Jimmy Chisholm is the final member of the trio, taking off the parts of Ugarte, Captain Renault, and Victor Lazlo. With his finesse and timing he is strong all round, but especially superb as Renault, a part portrayed by the brilliant Claude Rains in the film, and arguably the part with the best lines. A winning performance.
Throw in a figurine of a man at a piano to ensure Sam is not forgotten, a bit of audience participation with the singing of La Marseillaise, and a tap dance for a finale, this is a happy reinvention – a ‘love letter’ to the best of old Hollywood.