13 Sep

At the Charing Cross Theatre
My favourite people are taxi drivers and this play is a sort of memorial to the old days when they were the sole kings of the road. The days before Uber – when minicabs were the only threat.
On a delicious adaptable setting by Nicolai Hart Hansen. The lives of four contestants study for the coveted green badge of the London cabbie. This is a trade that goes back to Oliver Cromwell and is the only city in the world with anything like it. Cabbies must learn every street, every pub, every building, every public toilet, etc. in the whole area of London. When they can satisfy the examiner about this they are given a badge – and advice to carry on learning how to work the suburbs. I have often wondered why some cabbies used to say they cannot go to an address out of town. Now I know why – they don’t know the best way of getting there They haven’t yet got that bit of knowledge under their belts.
The first story is that of Chris – a young man who has been on the dole since he left school. His girlfriend Janet persuades him to take the course. The next contestant in the group is Ted who is completely confident, has a photographic memory and comes from a Jewish family of cabbies .Gordon Weller is doing it to cheat on his wife. It’s an excuse to come home late every night completely knackered. The fourth contender is a girl, Miss Stavely who wants to do a man’s job in a man’s world to prove she can.
These guys and their partners are all trying very hard, but the biggest bugbear is the eccentric bully, Mr Burgess who seems determined to make them all fail. He is up on the second floor of the set and he calls them one by one to give them hell. He shouts their names three times, and it is amusing that they light cigarettes on the first call and stub them out on the last one.
Obviously, the script is dated but it has been left as it was to get the seventies atmosphere. Sometimes it works, occasionally it misfires.
There are a few great one liners.
‘I should have given up and had a go at ballet dancing.’
It is a good cast and it is sharply directed by Rosenthal’s widow Maureen Lipman
High nostalgia quotient and a good advert for Taxis and their recent problem fighting the Uber factor.

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