Friday, 19 November 2010

The Country Girl Review

The Country Girl by Clifford Odets
Apollo Theatre W1

Exit Stage Left

A tormented play by a politically-active writer given an uneven production, thought TLT and her partner-on-wheels, about this 1950 inside out piece on theatre, lies and cowardice directed by Rufus Norris.  Washed-up actor Frank Elgin (Martin Shaw) is offered the chance by young director Bernie Dodd (Mark Letheren) to star in a play albeit on a contract with two-weeks notice.  Frank’s career , so it is alleged, has been hampered by a young wife Georgie (Jenny Seagrove), the eponymous country girl, believed to be a neurotic.  While watching this, TLT began to think this difficult but worthwhile piece may be a unmade brilliant movie. Only to find out later through the good offices of Google that it was an Oscar-winning film when Grace Kelly who played Georgie won out over Judy Garland's performance in A Star Is Born (a movie about a washed-up alcoholic actor and his wife ...) for Best Actress plaudit.  Anyway,  what to say about it? The first act is supremely irritating because the accents of the two main characters Frank Elgin and his wife Georgie are so inpenetrable (I did wonder whether we were listening to Swedish-Americans!). Yet we know something rich, strange and very human is going on which kept me hanging in there. And surely there is, and if there isn’t, there should be, a theatregoing adage: “Always wait for the last act”. The audience was suitably rewarded with a fast-moving dream of a second act and every sassy line as clear as a bell. So round one goes to the clever set design by Scott Pask and Jonathan Lipman and supporting actors alongside Letheren, Nicolas Day, Peter Harding, Thomasin Rind and Luke Shaw. With a knock out punch by everyone in the second-act and just about an amber light from TLT who also recommends reading something about the life of Clifford Odets before seeing the play. 

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Absent Friends Review

Absent Friends by Alan Ayckbourn

Not Waving But Drowning

Never one to begrudge an acknowledgement, TLT has to admit a four star review in the Evening Standard sent her and ever-loyal automotive companion along to the railway arches to see this 1974  play set in a suburban living room.  Directed by Ben De Wynter with suitably evocative design by Holly Best and lighting by Steve Miller,  the piece revolves around four male pals (one never seen)  who have known each other since their youth. Two of the men, along with three wives (one of the wives is married to he who is not seen) and one baby in tow are about to welcome to tea the only single man left in their coterie, Colin (Giles Fagan) after a long absence. A tragic drowning has robbed him of his fiancée and, by rights, he should be thoroughly miserable with the others, house-proud Di (Gillian McCafferty),  mother-hen Marge (Fiona Gordon), philandering Paul (Chas. Early), hyperactive John (Shaun Stone) and monosyllabic sophisticate Evelyn (Olivia Busby) counting their blessings at their married bliss.  But being Ayckbourn, things are much darker and slyer on this merry-go-round of coupling,  uncoupling,  shattered flying ducks and childhood dreams.  All the actors turn in thoroughly creditable performances and, though the pacing is sometimes awry and  occasional self-consciousness creeps in, it’s a very satisfying retro bitter-sweet entertainment.  An amber light to warm up a cold November evening.