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Posts Tagged ‘Dorothea Myer-Bennett’

I’m fond of a bit of Marivaux, though there’s been a bit of a famine of late. This early 18th century French playwright wasn’t as highly regarded as the more earnest Racine or the more grandly comedic Moliere in his day, but contemporary British audiences have rather taken to his perfectly formed minimalist romantic comedies, and there were some 37 of them over 50 years (I’ve only seen four!). This one was last seen (I think) at the NT 24 years ago, titled The Game of Love & Chance, a translation by Neil Bartlett, who was partly responsible for rekindling interest in Marivaux. This is a translation by the late John Fowles, set in Jane Austen’s Regency England, workshopped by the NT nine years before that, but not staged until now.

It’s a simple but intricate plot. The father’s of Sylvia and Richard have arranged for them to meet in the hope they will become a match, but it’s not an arranged marriage. With her father’s agreement, Sylvia decides to swap roles with her maid Louisa so that she can observe Richard’s character, but unbeknown to her, Richard has decided to do the same with his manservant Brass. Sylvia’s father knows of Richard’s plan as his dad wrote and informed him, and her brother Martin is now in the know too. It unfolds like a dance of love over ninety minutes until we have not one, but two, happy couples. It’s got bags of charm and there isn’t a wasted moment.

Paul Miller’s in the round production has great pace, with no props to slow down scene changes. Simon Daw’s simple but elegant design comprises a lamp and flower ceiling feature, an illuminated floor and sky painted canvases on each side. All six performances are excellent, with Ashley Zhangazha & Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Richard and Sylvia and Claire Lams & Keir Charles as Louisa and Brass. It never outstays its welcome and you leave the theatre with a warm glow.

Lovely to see Marivaux again. Lets hope it starts another reawakening of interest.

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The Finborough has a knack of finding a rarity in search of an audience, and an audience in search of a rarity; this one sold out before it opened. It’s an oddly titled banned 1925 Noel Coward play, getting its UK professional premiere. We must have been real prudes back in 1925, as it got staged in the US, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Egypt & South America – but not here; well, until now.

You’d know it was a Coward play even if you went to see it blind. In fact, it occasionally seems like a parody of Coward. Cads & bounders, cocktails & cigarettes and everyone’s darling, darling. In the world of the upper middle class, the play revolves around Edward Churt, a portrait painter who seems to be the only one who works. The rest visit each other for drinks and gossip, have lunch, play majong and travel to foreign parts to have drinks and gossip with their friends who’ve also travelled to foreign parts.

Right at the beginning of the play Edward discovers his wife Carol’s infidelity, but he doesn’t confront her until the end of the play. In between, his friend Evelyn decides to intervene on his behalf and it’s this overlong two-hand middle act where the play is at its weakest. It’s not a great play and it’s hard to identify with or care about any of the characters, which makes it more an experience of detached theatrical history that engaging, involving drama.

Simon Kenny has designed a simple, elegant and evocative period set and the costumes are terrific. The three leads, all of whose real names could be Coward character names(!) – Jamie De Courcey, Dorothea Myer-Bennett & Robert Portal – are all very good and there’s a superb supporting performance from Georgina Rylance as ice cool Zoe. Whatever you think of the play, this is a typically high quality Finborough production.

It isn’t the slightest bit shocking to a modern audience and the suggestion of a ban today would be laughable. Porgy & Bess, which I saw the previous night and which first appeared ten years later, would have been much more shocking. In 2014, it’s a rarity for those interested in 20th century British theatre in general and Noel Coward in particular.

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This homage / spoof of those mid-20th century shows on the airwaves has been something I’ve fancied trying for a while. I almost added it to my Edinburgh Fringe schedule this year, then this try-out turned up in a new venue, so off we went.

It covers similar ground to the Dick Barton shows at Croydon Warehouse and the recent Round the Horne recreations, sounding like the former and looking like the latter. It recreates a time when whole families sat around the wireless to hear tales told by actors with sound effects and music. Here, we’re with five actors in evening dress at the other end, in the studio, lined up behind microphones and surrounded by a vast array of items to create sound effects.

In 60 minutes, we get four tales, including 2 two-parters – a murder mystery and a thriller set in a tin mine – and one for kids. Each of the actors take multiple roles and create the extraordinary range of sound effects. I’m not sure the inclusion of commercials for tea is true to the period, but they’re fun nonetheless.

It’s funny, charming and above all a virtuoso performance. The success of the show relies much more on the performances than the writing and these, from Jon Edgley Bond, Tom Mallaburn, Phil Mulryne, Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Fiona Sheehan, were faultless.

Even though it’s only an hour, it’s taken at an exhausting pace and might benefit from a break half-way through, with the second parts of the two-parters in the second half (!), but this is destined for Edinburgh and intervals mean time and time means money, so I can see why they run it straight through.

It was my first visit to the New Diorama Theatre inside the also new Regent’s Place development at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road. The communication links are great, there’s a good bar / cafe with outside seating and they’re all very friendly. A welcome addition to the London fringe.

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