3 FEBRUARY 1956, Page 18

Plain and Fancy Airs

PLAIN AND FANCY. By Joseph Stein and Will Glickman. (Drury Lane.)—FRESH Alas. By Michael Flanders and Donald Swann. (Comedy.) AFTER a long period of inactivity the London theatre has stirred again into something like life with a couple of shows, neithet of which is as good light entertainment as it might be. The creators of the latest American musical have thought that it would be just too funny for words to stage it among the quaint old- world community of the Amish, a stricter section of the Mennonites, which takes its name from Jacob Amman, a Swiss bishop. Apparently there is a considerable bunch of these people in Pennsylvania all speaking a low-German variant of English and all refus- ing to drink, fight or wear buttons, and it is with them that this musical deals. An un- expected background, but I suppose none the worse for that. What is a little more serious is that the amount of humour to be extracted from the adventures among them of two New York sophisticates is definitely limited— limited, in fact, as far as I was concerned to what Shirl Conway managed to do with her unpromising lines—while the 'Hans Breitniann gif a barty' dialogue; in which the plot is framed, became more and more of a bore as the evening wore on. It was quite a relief to notice that the accent wasn't maintained in the sung numbers. These went with trans- atlantic zip, though perhaps a little less gaily than usual. I liked 'How do you raise a Barn?' (why don't our stage designers take some lessons from America? The portable bard was

most effective) and 'City Mouse, Country 'Mouse,' which was a success for Virginia Somers. Malcolm Keen made a fine, bass. patriarchal Jacob Yoder, supported by a mixed bag of Zooks, Lapps. Rebers and Pilersheims The hit of the evening, however, was Miss Conway, who was both funny and vital, whether bemoaning the absence of plumbing or announcing that it was the hulluva way to run a love affair. I am glad to say she got her man in the end.

The successor to Airs on a Shoestring starts under the shadow of its famous predecessor. I suppose that anyone who saw the earlier show was bound to think this one a let-down. I didn't see the old original, but I found one or two of the items on this programme not quite slick enough or 'witty enough. However, Moyra Fraser was a delight whenever she appeared, whether as a Bacchante with a drop too much taken or as an indeterminately • Spanish bombshell. Max Adrian was good, too: his railway porter getting ready to wel- come distinguished • visitors from behind the iron curtain with water pistol and catapult made me tremble for the future of interna- tional relations and also wonder why more people don't throw things at politicians. Altogether this was quite a good evening in spite of unevenness in the standard of individual acts. Perhaps the revue would be better for a little cutting. Starting at half past eight. it really went on a little long. Far past closing time.