Theatre Review: Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge – Jermyn Street Theatre

Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge – Jermyn Street Theatre 

Thursday 8th March 2012: Having stumbled across the musical comedy of both Rainer Hersch and Victor Borge (rather ashamed to admit it was via YouTube) I was filled with excitement to go and see this production. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but I was under the impression that it would be Hersch’s tribute to the life and works of Borge’s musical comedy. A talk about his life, recreation or video play of his work and a lot of laughs thrown in for good measure. However, I left feeling somewhat perplexed and disappointed. 

Hersch is a talented musician in his own right, with a definite flair for the stand-up routine. However, last night, the whole piece fell flat. Hersch has made a bold move to take on the persona of Borge – which he does so by adopting a Danish accent and a strange facial expression. The issue I have here was that it was neither a particularly convincing impression, nor a very funny one. Admittedly Borge's life was not all about comedy, but Hersch's interpretation of the comic routines were lacking.  He at times, inserts a strange nervous giggle that I’m sure is Hersch’s character rather than Borge, and it throws the entire feel of the production leaving me unable to believe in his performance. 

I think some of last night could be attributed to nerves. Hersch seemed somewhat startled under the theatre lights, and the speed at which he spoke and rushed through his act suggested he was uncomfortable. Indeed a lot of the jokes were lost because he merely didn’t take enough time to provide us with the punch line. Even his piano playing was distinctively average – something I wasn’t expecting from someone with his experience. The production as a whole lacked structure, feeling as though in some parts Hersch lost his place and struggled to regain his composure. As an audience member it felt quite awkward at times and I had to look down at the floor, which is never a good sign. It felt a little bit like an embarrassing uncle doing an unfunny impression at a dinner party – once might be a laugh but after an hour it begins to wear thin. 

I am left disappointed. I consider myself a fan of Hersch and desperately wanted him to pull this off. I am in no doubt that he is a talented comedian and musical performer, so it came as some surprise that it lacked humour and charisma. I am therefore forced to submit the following summary – Would I pay to see Hersch perform his own routines? Yes. Would I pay to see Hersch give a talk about Borge, drawing upon aspects of his life, showing us some film footage and recreating some typical Borge scenes (but played as Hersch not as an impression)? Yes. But would I pay the ticket price of £18 to see a rather bizarre and unstructured production of Hersch pretending to be Borge? Then the answer has to be a disappointed “No”. 

Production runs until March 31st