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Whitehall Theatre, Trafalgar Square. 6th March-2nd Sept 2000.

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      13.07.2000 20:54
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      Cooking With Elvis is the play that has finally got Lee Hall the recognition that he deserves. It tells the story of the relationship between a 14 year old girl obsessed with food and her anorexic mother. Both are learning to live with the girl's father, previously an Elvis impersonator and now paraplegic after a car accident, and the mother's new boyfriend Stuart (Frank Skinner). The play is rude, it is risque, and it is brilliant. Not just sniggering funny, not giggling funny, but laugh out loud and poke the person next to you and repeat whatever's just been said funny. But then, suddenly, it gets serious. Then funny again. Lee Hall's main talent seems to lie in manipulating his audience's emotions, and he uses this skill to great effect. The subjects might not seem out of place on a Channel Four documentary, yet the audience is never made to feel guilty for laughing. Every situation is mined for comic potential and nothing is sacred - social taboos are stripped away, as are Frank Skinner's clothes. The acting was excellent, with all of the actors putting warmth and vitality into their performances. Unfortunately Frank Skinner wasn't appearing on the night we went, but his replacement was more than adequate. It is also the first (and probably last) play that I have watched where a tortoise received a round of applause. And well deserved it was too. Being poor students we opted for the cheapest tickets(£8.50) but rather than the restricted view we were expecting we found ourselves at the centre back of the stalls with a great view. Well worth doing if you don't fancy paying £20 just to sit a bit closer to the stage. If you fancy something a bit more flippant than Hamlet, slightly less profound than Waiting For Godot, and a lot more amusing than anything Pinter's ever written, then Cooking With Elvis is well worth a try.

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