April in Paris
Paul Johnson | 20 Aug 2014 14:10pm
Shobna Gulati & Joe McGann in John Godber’s April in Paris. Photo: Robert-Day
I love seeing a production where every single aspect is successful. The current UK tour of April in Paris is one such example. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, as did the rest if the (unusually) full house for opening night at The Churchill Theatre Bromley.
April in Paris is from the John Godber stable of comedy pieces – quick-witted, insightful and damn funny. Having seen his work mostly on the non-pro circuit, I was keen to see how it would be dealt with, and who better to direct than the writer himself. Having had an insight to the whole rehearsal process from Sardines’ recent interview (Issue 23), seeing the final result was interesting.
Where to start? The set, imaginative yet simple. A simple ‘house’ that with a few changes became a cross-channel ferry. The second half brought us Paris’s most famous landmarks. Again simply executed but working perfectly for their needs. Pip Leckenby shows us that touring sets need not be dull nor over complicated.
Costumes – tick. Music – tick.
What really makes this production work (apart from its award-winning writer and director of course) were the actors. Too many professionals rely on their name and experience to coast through productions. But not in this piece. Apart from feeling it could’ve been The Count and I up there, bickering about anything and everything, the chemistry between Shobna Gulati (Bet) and Joe McGann (Al) was tangible. And I don’t mean sexual chemistry, I’m talking about the ease and comfort that comes from knowing or being with someone a long time. Now, I know these two go as far as passing wind in each other’s company (read our interview!) but this onstage chemistry is testament to both their acting abilities as well as Godber’s skill as a director – pure pleasure to watch garnering much laughter from the audience.
Two handers are hard to execute well. There’s only one other person to interact with and you’re onstage the whole time. Using his ‘trademark’ addressing of the audience, we are shown both sides of the marital coin. Your sympathies veer from one to the other as the pair battle through their April in Paris.
Typical with Godber, pace and timing are of the essence and are executed to perfection, but this one has its pauses too, which are cleverly filled with subtle gestures and facial expression. There must be pace, but also a connection between the actors, otherwise it’s just people delivering lines. Neither actor vies for the limelight where other less-gracious star turns might.
I cannot express enough the excellence of this production. My only concern lies with the fact that Shobna who, despite embodying Bet perfectly, seems far too young, sexy and glamorous to play the Northern (almost) harridan. Although she’s only a few years off her half-century, she could easily play someone half that age! But that’s credit to her innate acting skills. In this play she’s believable all the way.
As Al would say, “that ain’t bad that”.
Catch the couple at Bromley or one of the upcoming venues on its UK tour: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/april-in-paris/
- : admin
- : 19/08/2014