Ben Elton’s Silly Cow is ‘milked for every last drop of comedy’

Company of Ten's production of Ben Elton comedy Silly Cow has sold out at the Abbey Theatre Studio i

Company of Ten's production of Ben Elton comedy Silly Cow has sold out at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell - Credit: Anne Frizell

Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten’s production of Ben Elton’s Silly Cow in St Albans.

Tabloid journalism gets a taste of its own medicine in Ben Elton’s sparky satire Silly Cow, currently being played to sell-out audiences in the Abbey Theatre Studio.

The Company of Ten production demonstrates through its poisonous protagonist with her penchant for sniffing coke, toy boy ‘lover’ and total disregard for the hurt she is causing that she is no better than those who suffer at the hands of her vitriolic journalism.

It is set in the 1980s, a decade before the phone hacking scandal, but demonstrates in its own mischievous way how much some journalists could gain in terms of fame and kudos by plumbing the depths of their profession.

Silly Cow is a curious play because while it has some great lines in the first act, the main character, Doris Wallis, spends more time laughing at her own comments and ripostes than the audience do.

And the reason why some of the characters appear a touch wooden initially is not explained until the second act which is a comic triumph for all concerned.

At its heart is a farcical examination of how far some journalists are prepared to go in the pursuit of fame and fortune – and the trigger that makes their wounded victims seek revenge.

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Lianne Wiedmann is a revelation as the glamorous Doris, a role apparently taken by Dawn French in the original production, so big shoes to follow.

Lianne strides the Studio like a colossus in her very high-heeled boots.

And even when her towering ambition takes a tumble, there is still a strong feeling that she will win back the fame she has so callously built up – perhaps not what the Hacked Off campaign would want to hear.

Just as impressive is Max Walters as her would-be editor Sidney with his wheedling nasally tone and willingness to go along with her self-flattery – or is he?

Making up the remainder of a strong cast is Leonie Thompson as Doris’s put-upon PA Peggy, Peter Hale as old duffer accountant Douglas, and Jack Kenward as toy boy Eduardo, complete with leather jacket and shades.

Catherine Hieatt directs and in her capable hands Silly Cow is milked for every last drop of comedy – but even if it is snowing outside and the cat won’t come in, make sure you don’t miss the second act.