Posts Tagged ‘Dean Nolan’

This is what Emma Rice does best – creating theatrical magic. It’s her 4th such show in the last 2 years – Romantics Anonymous, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and this revival of her 2007 masterpiece, four of the best of her seventeen shows I’ve seen. It’s back in the same cinema, just down the road from the location of the film’s world premiere in Regent Street seventy-two years ago.

It interweaves the film’s story of the relationship between Laura and Alec with playful scenes involving the other characters at the station – Asst. Station Master Albert and Refreshment Room Manager Myrtle and her assistants Beryl and Stanley, two other rather less serious couplings. It takes us from the moment Alec removes grit from Laura’s eye in the refreshment room at Milford Junction station, through their regular meetings at the station, in the cinema, the cafe & restaurant and in the flat of Alec’s colleague Stephen, to the crunch will-they-won’t-they denouement back at the station.

It flows beautifully from scene to scene, location to location, using film footage, songs with lyrics by Noel Coward and music by Coward and Stu Barker, and every trick in the inventive staging book. The cleverest thing about it is that the fun scenes don’t contaminate the love story, helped by the fact Isabel Pollen as Laura and Jim Sturgeon as Alec play it straight throughout. Lucy Thackeray’s Myrtle, Dean Nolan’s Albert, Beverley Rudd’s Beryl and Jos Slovick’s Stanley are all an absolute joy to behold, and if that isn’t enough they play another seven roles between them.

It’s a respectful homage to the film, which doesn’t for one moment send it up. The fun scenes add bucket-loads of charm and humour, and the two interwoven parts add up to one hell of an entertaining show. Though its hard to remember how you felt ten years ago, first time around, if anything I felt it was even better this time. Whatever you think of her two years at Shakespeare’s Globe, we’ve got Emma Rice back to create theatrical magic like this. I for one can’t wait for her next show.

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I can see why the Globe have revived this at Christmas, not long after its February première. It proves to be perfect seasonal fare – a 400-year-old panto!

Before The London Merchant starts, the theatre is ‘invaded’ by the citizen, his wife and their apprentice (surrogate son) Rafe. They insist on a part for Rafe, a new title and changes to the play and spend the rest of the evening in the audience commenting and interfering with demonstrations of unacceptable and intrusive audience behaviour, occasionally invading the stage themselves to get their way. On stage, a preposterous story unfolds and you find yourself trying to keep up with this and the antics of the intruders.

The play interweaves the story of who Luce marries, her father’s choice Master Humphrey, or hers (his apprentice Jasper), with the heroic exploits of Rafe as the Knight of the title in locations from Waltham Forest to Moldavia, encountering Jasper and his mother, the giant Barbaroso and a Moldovan princess. The pace is pretty relentless, with characters turning up in the audience, from above and below, engaging with audience members. There’s a lot of music and a couple of short pauses for refreshment replenishment as well as the interval, and of course it all ends up happy ever after.

The cast are clearly enjoying themselves, which becomes infectious, and the whole thing is huge fun, if a touch over-long at three hours. Director Adele Thomas makes very effective use of the whole of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which seemed even more intimate than usual, partly because of encounters of the close-up kind with many of the characters. Seeing Hannah Clark’s period costumes close up fills you with admiration for the skills of their makers.

Phil Daniels and Pauline McLynn preside over and control things as the citizen and his wife and Matthew Needham captures the naive charm of Rafe (played by Noel Coward in 1920 and both father and son Spall 33 and 9 years ago respectively). In a fine cast in the play within there are terrific turns from Paul Rider as a Falstaffian Merrythought, Dickon Tyrrell as camp Humphrey (a vision in pink and earrings), Dean Nolan as giant George and Samuel Hargreaves as the (very musical) boy.

Another reason why the SWP is fast becoming a firm favourite venue.


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