Guest reviewer: Ellen Casey
The Worst Little Warehouse in London is the tale of two Kiwi expats, Lala Barlow and Robbie Smith – young, in love, out of their depth – as they step off the metaphorical boat and into the London housing market. Needless to say, they’re in for a shock – and so end up in the kind of odd housing arrangement that seems mandatory in your 20s; and they have some stories to tell us.
This is a situation ripe for comedy – weird flatmate stories are actually my favourite genre of small talk, and so a musical comedy cabaret starring twelve of them? I was sold. It’s a large cast of characters for two people to take on, and Smith and Barlow do so excellently. The flatmates are distinctly characterised – helped along by a prop or two but mostly sold by Smith and Barlow’s accents (German, posh, Scottish) and affectations (a lisp, a hunch, an entire tiny dance routine to herald a flatmate who had once been in Cats). Comedy isn’t an easy genre because jokes – especially those that rely on character acting – need a deceptive amount of thought and preparation put into them. Smith and Barlow have every single one of their characters honed to a fine point – there’s not one that I would say lets the crowd down.
However, I have to take the opportunity to highlight a couple of favourites – Benji the slutty yogi as played (hilariously) by Robbie Smith is both scarily on point, and Lala Barlow’s German fitness freak? That’s a flatmate I’ve actually had. This is really where Worst Little Warehouse comes into its own – by carefully picking out the hilarity in the stereotype. It’s insightful comedy in a lot of ways, and it raises big laughs.
The Worst Little Warehouse might be the most energetic performance I’ve ever seen. I genuinely don’t know how Barlow and Smith did it, pirouetting around the stage while singing, playing keyboard, actually telling the story of their year in the warehouse… The King’s Head is a great theatre, but the stage is on the small side, and my God do Barlow and Smith make use of the space. By the time I left I felt that I’d seen every kind of performance I could ever want to: dancing, singing, comedy, acting… It’s a lot to fit into an hour but it makes for an explosive performance, and culminates in a truly impressive, frenetic dinner party starring all twelve flatmates that sees props go flying around the stage in a slightly startling way – luckily they were always caught. That sequence in itself is so impressively choreographed that it was honestly a complete delight to witness.
The only slight negative here was that I felt some songs – like one about sticking together no matter what – were slightly shoehorned in. They don’t directly relate, and take running time away from where the real gems are: the Warehouse itself.
My verdict? Energetic, hilarious, original – an experience worth having.