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Strictly for Kicks

You missed it Tuesday and Wednesday at the Loeb

By Frank Rich

THE BRITISH came to town this week and won my heart. If they didn't win your heart, then you probably missed the Oxford-Cambridge Players' late-night revue, Strictly for Kicks, which stopped briefly at the Loeb.

Kicks, like Beyond the Fringe before it, is a showcase for the writing and performing talents of a group of recent Oxbridge graduates, in this case five men and a woman. For an hour, they do a collection of songs, sketches and dances--many satirical, some whimsical, some completely frivolous. All the material is in good fun and good taste, and is rendered with dazzling panache by the creators.

Among the artists I particularly liked Rob Buckman, a little man who apparently has springs for feet and Mexican jumping beans on his mind. In other words, he jumps around a lot, such as when he demonstrates the ways of a fag judo instructor or a kiddies television show emcee. As this emcee, called Buttons and with a ludicrous costume to match the name, Buckman gets to lead the audience in a song that would make even Art Linkletter sneer. The lyrics are a sharp play on the worst genre of pop music ("I like to ride on a reindeer/Wouldn't you like to, too?/Wouldn't you like to hold the rein, dear, on my reindeer, dear?/It never rains, it only snows with you."), and Buckman delivers them with such soupy sincerity that you have to restrain yourself from joining in. He also does a striptease and participates in an "action-packed wrestling match on slow-motion video tape," two bits that defy rational description or analysis.

More slinky than springy is Julie Covington, the very sexy lady of the outfit. She has a dramatic turn in a murder drama (done in reverse action, of course; none of Kicks is done straight.), sings some songs with cat-like sensuality, and generally looks very nice in her many very nice costumes.

The other performers are all wonderful, too, each in their own way. Pete Atkin plays a mean piano when he is not cavorting with the others. And Jonathan James-Moore, tall and wild-eyed, makes a nice alternative to Dai Davies, shorter and dull-eyed.

Altogether there are about twenty bits, so a good deal of ground is covered in the much too short session. Some of the sketches are not as funny as others, but the great majority of them have a generous share of gags. Many fresh comic observations are brought to such topics as topless restaurants, Anglo-French rivalry, State Department press conferences, senility and even C. P. Snow ("known to writers as a scientist and known to scientists as a writer"). One of the longest and funniest monologues is that of a BBC-television sports broadcaster, who corrects an error by informing his audience that a skier "placed third in the competition--not twenty-third as I said an hour ago, or thirty-third as I will say an hour from now."

If you missed Kicks this time around, be thankful that it will return to these shores next year. It's too bad that someone hasn't convinced the eminently likable people who produced it to hang their hats permanently in our Cambridge. A year is a long time, and they'll be missed.

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