If there is a better way to banish the January blues than tête-a-tête’s revival of Julian Slade & Dorothy Reynolds’ 1954 faux innocent and ultimately bonkers musical I’ll eat Cameron MacKintosh’s kilt.
Upon graduating from university, upper middle class friends Timothy and Jane face family and peer pressure to find spouses and do something useful with their lives. Timothy has a string of influential uncles that his parents hope will help him decide on a career, but all Timothy is interested in is Jane. She appears initially reluctant but agrees to marry Timothy in secret in the hope that love will follow.
An encounter with a mysterious tramp in the park sees them left in charge of a portable piano, Minnie, which, when played, causes everyone in earshot to start involuntarily dancing, cue prancing vicars, policemen, nurses, et al.
With the police hot on their tails because of the public nuisance that Minnie causes, they manage to lose the piano but with the help of Timothy’s uncle Zed and his unusual mode of transport recover her just in time to hand her back.
That brief synopsis does not do justice to the endless stream of joyous musical numbers (including We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back, which according to Mrs Front Row Dress is the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s “song”) delivered with straight faced aplomb by a supremely energetic cast who sing like angels, which is a mighty achievement considering their tongues are so planted firmly in their cheeks that I'm astounded they can even speak. Accompanied by a skilled jazz four piece and with innumerable full cast dance routines the fun does not let up for one second.
Presented in traverse on a technicolour set of canary yellow, verdant green and shimmering blue, the summer heat is palpable even though arctic conditions are forecast in the real world outside. Leo Miles (last seen in Call Me Madam at the Union) as Timothy and Katie Moore as Jane make the cutest couple imaginable and have the audience on their side from the off. With wide eyed exuberance they leap across the performance space like spring lambs looking for meaning to their lives. I suppose if anything the show proves that today’s youth have exactly the same problems as those of 60 years ago, how to find someone to love and something worthwhile to do, but essentially this is simply 2 hours and 10 minutes in which to forget the rigours and mundanities of the nine to five and to celebrate life itself.
Director Bill Bankes-Jones ensures that the cast play with total conviction and never once lapse into parody, with choreographer Quinny Sacks giving every company member (and some of the audience) the opportunity to shine in glorious ensemble pieces.
Finally I must single out Mark Inscoe and Tony Timberlake, two silver foxes with twinkles in their eyes and youthful springs in their steps, who take on numerous roles and effortlessly manage to charm the pants off the appreciative crowd.
With snow on the ground and a chill in the air, never has there been a better time to get down to Hammersmith, forget your own problems and sit in the sun with Timothy, Jane and the wonderful characters that populate the five star perfection that is Salad Days.
Booking until 2 March 2013, forget the snow with five star perfection - Salad Days