As the pun in the title implies, this is a comedic interpretation of ‘Moby Dick’, the 1851 novel by Herman Melville depicting the obsessional pursuit of ‘the great white whale’ by Captain Ahab. In the hands of Hambledon Productions this great work of Victorian literature becomes a jumping off point for puppetry, puns and silly slapstick which purposefully elicits as many groans as it does belly laughs.
Writer and Performer John Hewer plays every character throughout the hour long show (with an unnecessary interval), and clearly has a deep knowledge and love of post war British comedy. Paying homage to his heroes by heavily drawing on Ronnie Corbett and Tommy Cooper in the delivery style, he concocts a ‘Carry On Moby Dick’ structure which allows a constant stream of wordplay and double entendres to be squeezed in next to the central plot.
Characterisation and accents are uniformly good and when adding in a running gag around Starbuck and a seagull called Steven you can see that Hewer has taken some pains to cleverly blend the comedy into the original source material. However, he often resorts to the easy laugh with references to seamen, crabs and dick heavily outweighing the more literate comedy. The pace is somewhat uneven, and the comedic slant has no obvious outlet in the conclusion, forcing Hewer into an unnecessarily somber ending which is out of step with what has preceded it.
This is fun knockabout stuff; we are never more than 30 seconds from the next punchline and Hewer has excellent comic timing and a winning naïveté which wills the audience to laugh louder than some of the jokes deserves. Clearly a skilful mimic, he needs to hone some of the material into a coherent structure to make this piece work in the way he intends. At present, this is less a literary lampoon and more a stand up routine with costumes and props.
Reviewer: Paul Wilcox
Reviewed: 21st July 2023
North West End UK Rating: