By Mark Bolsover
On a night of celebratory partying during the nineteen thirties, a high-society flapper and her beau have a chance meeting with an impoverished chemist, which leads to revelations about inequalities in society and the nature of economic and emotional merit.—Slippers and Rum present Tom Powell’s accomplished but slightly lacklustre adaptation of Kurt Vonnegutt’s ‘The King and Queen of the Universe’.
Fans of Vonnegutt might recognise the moralising tone of ‘King and Queen’ from his earlier, shorter fiction. Lost here, however, is much of Vonnegutt’s deceptively light, sarcastic wit.
The director and cast make good use of the space and sparse set in evoking the various settings of the play, and the introductory dances between Georgia Wagstaff and Sam Curry (as the leads) as the audience enters, as well as the costume (particularly Wagstaff’s) establish the period very well.
However, the coming-to-consciousness of class and economic disparity story feels slightly crude and patronising, and the references to both immigration and gender politics, whilst obviously timely, have a somewhat box-ticking feel, lacking any depth other than simply noting inequality and prejudice.
The young cast is accomplished (Jack Gamble has some genuinely touching moments as Stanley Karpinsky), but clearly needed some voice work. The dialogue was often simply swallowed in the space and this sapped a lot of the energy that the piece really needed to maintain interest.
This is a solid production of, unfortunately, slightly drab material.