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The show: My first job was working for an impresario who produced, (albeit a long time before I joined) this farce and so I felt a tenuous connection and was delighted to be invited. Although the majority of this impresarioís work was farce I have to say it is not a favourite genre for me. I find the muddle that people get themselves into rather irritating.
Choice of Play: The play is a popular one. Having been originally written in French it was adeptly adapted by Beverley Cross, a real master at his job and who died far too young. It is a relatively simple farce in term of entrances, exits etc in that there are no bodies hidden in cupboards, no slamming doors or exits jumping through windows.
Production: The play was first performed in London in 1962. It was clear from the outset that the era was the 60ís from the primary colours of the set and the style of furnishings and paintings. The set was not crowded with extraneous items, either depicting a very bachelor pad or the fact that a nice clear area was what was desired.
Continuity: The play zipped along snappily. Each performer having perfected their lines it seemed. There were a couple of slow entrances from Bertha, the French maid, which I felt left Bernard and Robert hanging slightly, but it was well masked.
Director: Dolleen Howlett directed this classic and as the programme says it was her debut in this role. You would not have thought so. The space was well used, each part of the set utilized. Each cast member was in no doubt as to where they should be and everyone had the confidence that you have when you have been positively directed.
Gloria was played by Sophie Gilbert. The first of Bernardís three love interests. Accents are always a challenge to maintain but Sophie did so and very well. However, I found it difficult at times to understand what was being said. I found myself unravelling a word as the pronunciation was so alien to me, by which time of course, the action had moved on. This role was played with great confidence and determination and I was thrilled that she got her man in the end, albeit a different one!
Bernard was played by Christian Mortimer. Christian was convincing in the role of suave, smug bachelor moving skillfully from one girlfriend to the next. Looking every bit the business man living the high life. This was a performance full of energy. The pace didnít drop and from the moment the play started Christian worked tirelessly, never letting his character flag, gaining momentum as the play reached its conclusion.
Robert was played by Dean Bartholomew. Arriving to meet his old school friend Robert soon finds himself in awe of Bernard. Dean was a perfect foil to Christian and gave a solid performance totally convincing as he gained confidence to also try the lifestyle of his friend.
Both these performances were of the highest standard demonstrating each of their suitability for these roles. They both looked the part and were totally plausible. Their projection was excellent and neither apparently missed a beat. Their delivery and clear diction never dropped and their comedic timing was outstanding. These accomplished performances were a pleasure to watch each of them in totally command of their own roles but working so well together.
Bertha was played by Sylvia Zilesnick. A really lovely part well played and acted. I did feel that some of the delivery could have been quicker and entrances swifter. However, I very much enjoyed the characterisation of this French maid whose long suffering of her bossís romantic escapades played her part in this charade well and convincingly.
Gabriella was played by Sarah Hudson. The exuberance of Gabriella was engaging and the Italian accent superbly maintained matching her whole physical nterpretation of this character.
Gretchen was played by Charlotte Pope. Charlotte was excellent in her role as larger than life German air strewardess. The German accent was well studied and maintained throughout. The humour was extracted at every moment and she worked well with Robert gradually succumbing to his advances. Stage kisses are not always easy either to watch or do but yours was superb.
The costumes were appropriate and of the correct period. The air stewardesses in their appropriately smart solid colour suits looked the part. Each of them was well made up and hair in place as you would expect. Their shoes were clean and I appreciated their flight bags were of the era. The men looked good in their suit and jacket and slacks. Bertha was dressed appropriately as maid. I particularly like Berthaís leaving outfit. Here was a maid who saved up her money to buy the best coat and hat for her days off.
Set and Props:
was surprised how I felt when the director approached the stage and spoke to one of the crew during the interval. I found myself feeling a little let down that I wasnít looking in on a flat in Paris but obviously Lopping Hall in Loughton. I would have preferred the fourth wall to remain so during the interval.
Lighting & sound:
Front of House: