‘Making Dickie Happy’ is a smart piece of speculative biography, in which writer Jeremy Kingston fixes up a fictional meeting between Noël Coward and Agatha Christie, ensconced together in a bijou hotel on the Devonshire isle of Burgh. Lord ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten is there too, away for one last jolly before his marriage of convenience, and he has a cracking idea for Christie’s new story.
Kingston has slotted the pieces together neatly, with his celebrity supergroup wittily batting around the concept of betrayal and treachery – to oneself, one’s art or one’s family. He has even unearthed a long-lost Coward song, a middling fragment named ‘Devon’, to top his confection off.
The dialogue is consistently witty, but the drama lacks friction and drive: everyone’s fucking each other or has fucked each other, but the sexual tension feels limp and the stakes low.
A centrepiece conversation between Coward and Christie stands out as a clear highlight, with Phineas Pett finally settling into the role of the master raconteur after a shaky first act, and the remarkable Helen Duff shining as Christie. Duff’s performance is enthralling throughout, delicate, nuanced and highly intelligent. ‘Making Dickie Happy’ burns like a cigarette, slowly and evenly, with a pleasing glow but no pyrotechnics. Stewart Pringle
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5 / 5
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A first night preview rarely earns a full house and two curtain calls, but Making Dickie Happy fully deserved both. Jeremy Kingston has managed what most fear to do and many of the rest fail to do in creating young and convincing versions of truly great wits, i.e. Agatha Christie, Noel Coward and Dickie Mountbatten. A wonderful cast and excellent direction make this a joy from start to finish. Go see it quick..