Arsenic And Old Lace

Previewed 14 February 2003, Opened 25 February 2003, Closed 31 May 2003 at the Novello Theatre in London

A major revival of Joseph Kesselring's comedy farce Arsenic And Old Lace in London starring Stephen Tompkinson and Michael Richards.

Take two sweet old aunts with a deadly idea of charity, two murderers on the run (one who looks like Boris Karloff and one called Dr Einstein!), an uncle who believes he's the President and a soon-to-be-wed nephew who doesn't believe in marriage and you have all the ingredients for a madcap evening with Brooklyn's most unusual residents - The Brewsters!

The cast for Arsenic And Old Lace in London stars Stephen Tompkinson as 'Mortimer Brewster' and Michael Richards as 'Jonathan' with Thelma Barlow as 'Aunt Abby' and Marcia Warren as 'Aunt Martha' along with Rupert Vansittart and Hattie Morahan. The production is directed by Matthew Francis with designs by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Mai Soteriou and sound by Andy Pink. Stephen Tompkinson is best known for his television work which includes Ballykissangel, Drop the Dead Donkey and Ted and Alice. Michael Richards is best known for playing the role of Cosmo Kramer in the hugely popular American television series Seinfeld. The original West End stage production of this comedy farce opened at this same theatre in December 1942.

"For three frenetic hours this beautifully written 1941 farce unfolds in waves of black humour at its best. And what a cast. American Michael Richards - the comic genius who created Kramer in the classic US sitcom Seinfeld - does not disappoint as the Brewsters' prodigal son Jonathan who everyone wished had never returned after committing his own series of murders. Former Ballykissangel star Stephen Tompkinson's interaction with Jonathan and Elaine Harper (Hattie Morahan) is a delight. This was a fun night of West End theatre. And how appropriate that it was staged at The Strand (now The Novello) - the theatre where this play made its triumphant London debut way back in 1942." The Daily Mirror

"Joseph Kesselring's 1941 play, Arsenic and Old Lace, (which was also a classic movie) became famous during the war for its blend of zany, sick, American screwball humour. But comedy classics can become corpses, better remembered than revived... Seinfeld star Michael Richards shines as the manic face-ache and Paul Rider does a nifty Peter Lorre impression from the original film as his alcoholic surgeon. But aside from their scenes, this cumbersome, often tedious revival is too short on laughs. It leaves you marvelling at the gulf in audience tastes that has developed since it was written 60 years ago." The Daily Express

"At its best (which is not good), Agatha Christie should meet Dario Fo, an introduction Matthew Francis's sluggish, punishingly tedious revival fails to make. Thelma Barlow and Marcia Warren, both wonderful actresses, are marvellous as the two twee sisters of mercy, but they might just as well whistle in the wind. Stephen Tompkinson as Mortimer, the nephew who discovers his aunts' antics, mistakes farcical acting for swivelling eyeballs, sweating and silly walks; and Michael Richards squanders his talent, mugging madly in the Boris Karloff role. I swear I didn't laugh once." The Mail on Sunday

"I have never seen this famous old comedy warhorse before, so I cannot do a meticulous comparison in terms of textuality, action and free will, if you know what I mean, but I do know that even the most inane early-1940s American comedy can be done better than this. I have never seen so much ham acting on the same stage. Only Thelma Barlow and Marcia Warren, playing the genteel old Brooklyn biddies who poison lonely, elderly chaps out of sympathy, do what you would recognise as acting... The only thing that cheers you up is that there is a character who is mad and thinks he's the president of the United States." The Sunday Times

Arsenic And Old Lace in London previewed from 14 February 2003, opened on 25 February 2003 and closed on 31 May 2003.