30 DECEMBER 1972, Page 20


Two to miss

Kenneth Hurren

I doubt whether there is anything very useful to say about the juvenilia that presently infests the theatre. Reviews of the annual assortment of shows for the kiddies — which I am sure someone somewhere must already have described as the triumph of sugar over diabetes — are generally superfluous. Babes in the Wood, Sleeping Beauty on Ice, Once Upon a Time, Toad of Toad Hall and the rest: these are exactly what their titles must lead you to expect. But there were, last week, two pieces unconnected with the season that slipped into the West End under cover of the panto-and-puppet barrage, and if you were to suspect that they opened at this time in hopes of sharing the benevolent indulgence extended to the generality of holiday entertainments, you would very probably be right. Bunny, at the Criterion, is the one that

features Eartha Kitt at her most kittenish, playing a New York call-girl who lives in a style to suggest she does a flourishing trade in the flesh market but who, for the purposes of the play, behaves in a fashion so wholesome as to make Cinderella's fairy godmother seem a tawdry old scrubber by comparison. We see her involved in two anecdotes, uniting a dim young couple in true love in the first of them, and in the second bringing sweet companionship to an elderly Jewish millionaire, played by David Kossoff in his familiar Old -Testament style. Norman Krasna's dialogue for both episodes is of a piece with his soap opera plots, and could be of interest only to those who may feel intimidated by the sophistication of Sooty.

The Good Old Bad Old Days, at the Prince of Wales, is a more spectacular nuisance, in which Anthony Newley, abetted by Leslie Bricusse, presumes to put words into the mouths of God and the Devil, which should give you the measure of his pretensions. It is possible that you will be attracted to the show by its bouncy title song, as you may once have been attracted to Mame for the same reason. Here, I'm afraid, there is no Ginger Rogers -only Newley, who stars in the role of the Devil and offers a history of the world in musical comic strip in an endeavour to dissuade God from bringing down the curtain on the human experiment. It is a gruesomely witless caper which made Bunny seem, at least in retrospect, almost endurable.