Maybe Dick

The intimate setting of this theatre space above a pub, promises us an entertaining evening with this one-man show. The set is simple, a reversable cutaway of the Pequod whaling ship, with some additional props and plinths to create a sense of height. It’s reminiscent of a child’s playground, which is appropriate, as John Hewer uses it to great effect, using it as his acting playground upon which he introduces us to no less than 12 characters in this 90 minute show. Well, 13 if you include Stephen, the puppet seagull – yes, that’s correct, Stephen Seagull!

The story is loosely based on the famous novel, Moby Dick written by Mogue McCurich in 1850. And when I say loosely, I mean very loosely! Given the title, the piece never promises to be an accurate retelling, but instead is a vehicle for Hewer to offer his comic writing.

Hewer sets the tone right from the beginning with a series of silly one-liners, which continue relentlessly through the piece. A reference to a horse-drawn carriage is followed by a remark about being surprised at the drawing talents of a horse! There is also the moment where Captain Ahab insists on a different course because a map is showing where there are whales, except he is looking at a map of Wales. We begin to anticipate the jokes and can clearly see them coming. Hewer makes no secret about our anticipation either, with more than one aside to the audience. There is a joke in almost every line, which becomes quite exhausting after a while. It is noticeable that the laughter seemed to become more subdued as the piece went on.

The humour itself is definitely of a period. Hewer’s influences are the likes of Hancock, Tommy Cooper, the Carry On franchise of films and The Two Ronnies, and the bawdy jokes are reminiscent of that era. In fact, Ronnie Corbett makes a cameo appearance in the guise of the ship’s carpenter. This, and a tango with a dummy of Captain Ahab are the sillier of the moments in this very silly show. Speaking of Captain Ahab, we do eventually get to a wildly anticipated innuendo, where he remarks about his desire for the whale: ‘I won’t rest until I have Dick…’

There are a few songs interspersed in the piece, performed well by Hewer, which provide welcome relief from the relentless one liners.

You can’t fault his energy and talent in making sure we know which character is centre stage at any one point. Hewer is certainly having a whale of a time! Each character is an exaggeration to ensure that’s the case, which results in a few moments of subtlety which would be welcome in this small space.

It’s an entertaining evening, but it feels a little like Captain Pugwash meets Carry On Whaling. This fishy tale just about manages to stay afloat.

This show was reviewed on the 20th March 2024 at the White Bear Theatre, London where it runs until the 23rd March 2024.  Tickets available here: Maybe Dick | The White Bear Theatre

Review written by Ian Worsfold

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Photo credit: Philip Marshall Jnr & Emily Appleton

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