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LARDO – Old Red Lion Theatre, London.

94824Mike Stone’s Lardo, truly is two hours of “Tartan Wrestling Madness”, and barmy, brilliant theatre. The audience are instantly wrestling converts, sat around the professional ring that has been built at the Old Red Lion, screaming and clapping to our hearts’ content.

Title character Lardo, is trying to fulfill his dream of being a YouTube sensation, and a wrestler like his late Dad was. Daniel Buckley, in his leotards, bum bags and merchandise hats, is a thrill to watch. His enthusiasm, as he bounds off the ropes and squares up to the camera is infectious. It’s impossible not to chant “LARDO, LARDO, LARDO” as he faces his match in the ring. Buckley also has something incredibly sweet and endearing about him, so his reflection on times spent with his Dad have you welling up a little.

Wrestling director Henry Devas has done an exceptional job in choreographing the fights. You can imagine the Batman-esk “POW”, “KAPOW” appearing, as the wrestlers are thrown about the ring, slamming onto the floor, and being knocked senseless. Lardo’s signature finger waggle, after being pummeled three times, is such a lovely touch, and something you want to try out again for the first time since Primary School.

Nick Karimi’s performance as Stairs, owner of TWM and former wrestling champ, prior to an attack that left his knee shattered, is manic and grotesque and he certainly lives up to the name “Heartbreaker”. As and kick-ass single Mother and the self-confessed bitch of the ring Zoe Hunter is another treat to watch. The uncomfortable underlying tension between her and Stairs, and her strange rapport with Lardo gives Hunter the opportunity to show off a whole range of talent.

There are places where the narrative needs sharpening up. Compared to the developed, larger than life characters of Stairs, Whiplash and Lardo, the other wrestlers and Safety Inspector Cassie seem a bit limp. This is something that certainly could be rectified, but at present it seems like too many characters are crammed into one play. There is also an issue with a few underdeveloped story arcs: for example, Lardo’s ex-girlfriend’s interest in Loggerhead Turtles, and the lack of child support from Whiplash’s baby Daddy. For a show that’s only just over an hour and a half it doesn’t need so many different ideas going on at the same time.

You will have Lardomania after leaving the Old Red Lion. The script doesn’t quite fulfill the actors’ potential, but you certainly won’t be disappointed. And if anyone is selling a Lardo hat, send it this way!

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Reviewed 5/3/2015 

By Joanna Trainor

Runs until 28th March
Old Red Lion, Islington, EC1V.

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