Star rating - 9/10
Good comedy is all about perfect timing, sharp direction, and great writing. Luckily the current production of Russian playwright Alexandr Ostrovsky's Too Clever By Half at the Royal Exchange is blessed with all these and more.
Told By An Idiot interpret the classic 1860's black comedy with its biting satire on Russian society at that time as a farcical commentary on 1960's Moscow. It talks a little while to warm up, as many of the jokes depend on being built upon again and again throughout the piece. But the comical capers and genius touches (sick cast member? - I will say no more), soon warm up into an absolute side splitting delight.
Dyfan Dwyfor is superb as social climber Gloumov, a young man who will stop at nothing to achieve his desired ends. He is certainly an actor to watch, and his wooing scene in the first act with married older woman Kleopatra (Hayley Carmichael) is just one of the funniest and entertaining things I have seen for a long while. She also does unspeakably hilarious things with a big pair of frilly knickers later on.
In fact the whole cast are brilliant, and under the skilful direction of Paul Hunter, this revival really comes alive. The choice of accompanying music is Tarantinoesque in its aptness and precision - the love scene (with Gloumov in gold lamé jacket of course) is played out to the strains of Matt Monroe crooning Walk Away. And the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter is a recurring theme tune for the hilarious action.
It is certainly worth catching before its current run ends - and is a salutatory lesson in the perils of recording your opinions of others too honestly in a diary.