Sudden Loss of Dignity

An evening of embarrassment at The Bush theatre

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Sudden Loss of Dignity runs until 22 August 2009
Mon-Sat 7.30pm
Tickets: £15 (£13 concs)

The Bush Theatre
Shepherd's Bush Green
Telephone: 020 8743 5050

The Bush Theatre

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“Better a witty fool than a foolish wit,” a famous bard once said. These words came to mind during Sudden Loss of Dignity, currently playing at The Bush theatre.

The show is based on real-life embarrassing experiences sent in by member of the public and turned into a series of sketches written by Zawe Ashton, James Graham, Joel Horwood, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Michelle Terry. It sounded like a recipe for an evening of hilarity, along the lines of Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover, which brightened up last summer, but somehow that was not quite the result.

Many of the sketches centred on teenage concerns: making a fool of yourself while drunk or the 'embarrassment' of your girlfriend discovering you've got a Westlife song on your iPod. While some of this was quite touching, a lot of the material, performed by Katie Lyons, Kathryn Drysdale, Felix Scott and Hugh Skinner, was vulgar, bizarre or just a little flat.

In one scene, Kathryn Drysdale takes us through a life time of embarrassing incidents from cradle to grave, which on the face of it was an interesting idea with much potential. However, it began oddly, with a toddler feeling humiliated at having his nappy changed in a public place. In another scene, Drysdale plays a character who tells us how she lost control of her bowels in a birthing pool. What? In another, Felix Scott plays a drunken wedding guest who launches into an impromptu speech full of bitterness at not having been chosen to be the best man. This looked as though it were building up to a hilarious punchline - but ended instead in a rape accusation. Where did that suddenly come from?

In one of the better scenes, Lyons's character is desperately trying to impress her guests at a party...until her prosthetic breast falls into the vol-au-vents. A good script, a long enough build-up for us to get to know the character and a particularly skilful performance by Lyons carries the scene through to a touching end which elicits sympathy rather than disgust.

In another well-written, if completely off-the-wall scene, a character with 'Woolworths' tied around his neck (Felix Scott) chokes on his pick-and-mix while arguing with a full-of-himself 'Iceland' character (Hugh Skinner) who boasts about taking over the role of the recently demised chain store in the nation's hearts. Although this didn't appear to fit in with the rest of the sketches, it was a poignant and amusing piece.

After the rape accusation, Lyons lifts the sombre mood at the end with a humorous and lively song. Picking on a few unsuspecting members of the audience to be drawn into her ditty was probably a little uncomfortable for them, but thoroughly entertaining for the rest of us and an uplifting note to end on.

However, Sudden Loss of Dignity was like Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover's younger sister: it was trying to emulate its older sibling but still had something to learn. Most of the stories were faintly embarrassing rather than mortifying, the script mildly amusing and often quite vulgar, rather than hilarious.

I don't doubt the energy and enthusiasm of the cast but the script needs some revisiting to sort out some of the 'foolish wit'. Otherwise, it's just a little embarrassing.

Yasmine Estaphanos

August 9, 2009

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