The Same Deep Water As Me (review). Anne Cox joins West End crowd for Luton comedy

Nigel Lindsay and Daniel; Mays in The Same Deep Water As Me. Photo by: Johan Persson.
Nigel Lindsay and Daniel; Mays in The Same Deep Water As Me. Photo by: Johan Persson.
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Local Boy Nick Payne has his latest stage play set in the Luton offices of a pair of down at heel ambulance chasers who are looking for a miracle to save their struggling business.

Scorpion Claims looks right at home in the town centre, within spitting distance of their favourite hangout, Greggs.

The firm is run by a stand-up guy called Barry, who does a nice line in herbal teas for his clients, and his ambitious young ingénue Andrew, a man whose scruples got lost at about junction 11 of the M1 when he returned to the old firm from London to be closer to his dying dad.

The Same Deep Water As Me opened at the Donmar Warehouse in London’s West End, this week and it’s a great laugh.

The dialogue is punchy and very funny and will particularly tickle the funny bone of anyone who knows the town and its people (so long as you’re not easily offended. There ought to be a disclaimer mentioning that not everyone in Luton is shifty, devious, foul mouthed and on the take).

Payne, whose parents come from Luton and who grew up just a few miles down the road, is on a bit of a nostalgia trip using the town but, in reality, it could be anywhere.

The comedy probes compo-culture, and, particularly, the cash-for-crash scams which are always in the news.

The stage is dressed as an open office space complete with a Luton Town certificate on the wall and a temperamental desk fan (though it’s a shame the wall planner staring right at me was totally wrong. The local paper is The Luton News guys, not The Gazette).

Enter ‘effing Kevin, an old mate of Andrew’s from school. He’s got a cunning plan to get rich quick by claiming to be involved in shunts with Tesco delivery vans and he’s even prepared to rope in his pregnant wife to support his lies.

He made it sound so easy. Until one day his insurance company questions one of the claims and he is forced to go to the court.

Nigel Lindsay as Barry, Daniel Mays as Andrew and Marc Wootton, the opportunist Kev, are perfectly cast. Lindsay’s part is underwritten, and I’d like to have seen more from him, but his relationship with the resourceful Andrew is brilliantly played.

Daniel Mays’ character would make a lousy lawyer. He is hopelessly lost when having to represent his client in court, particularly when up against a bona fide, upper-class shark, like Georgina (a beautifully intimidating Monica Dolan).

Payne has a great eye for detail and he appears to know his subjects really well. Everyone, from our guilty trio to a memorable cameo by hostile court defendant Isabella and Peter Forbes as the fair-minded judge, are entirely believable.

The comedy has its weaknesses. Not enough is made of Andrew’s relationship with his father and the ending is all wrong. It just seems to come to a stop with an unsatisfactory last scene between Andrew and Kev’s wife Jen (a wonderfully warm performance throughout by Niky Wardley).

But it’s well worth a punt. You’ll be laughing from start to finish.

The Same Deep Water As Me runs at the Donmar until September 28. For tickets/ info call 0844 871 7624 or visit www.atgtickets.com/donmar-warehouse

@LBOanne