Nude With Violin
Paul Johnson | 26 Oct 2013 16:35pm
Michael Billington commented that this play was something of a ‘lame duck’, it being written and performed shortly after John Osborne’s ‘Look Back in Anger’ had rocked the theatre world out of its comfort zone of drawing-room dramas. Coward somehow misses the mark with this lampoon of ‘modern art’, and this is the difficulty for contemporary audiences, the world has moved on. Originally starring Sir John Geilgud, who was always best in classical roles, this lightweight play has little to offer except cheap laughs, and clever ‘franglais’ dialogue. The basic premise has ‘gone missing’.
Adel Players’ production at The Memorial Hall missed an opportunity for complete satire and, despite some delightful individual performances, somehow the comedy had ‘gone missing’. It did not help that the director failed to curtail some of the excesses of ‘acting’ from her cast, which included speaking with eyes tight shut, as if the audience had also, somehow ‘gone missing’, and constant moving from chair to chair before speaking, in place of significant moves that might have reinforced the comedy. I can also only blame the director for the lack of pace and moments of real fun that are to be found in the script.
Having said that I must praise the cameo roles of both Pat Riley (Princess Anya Pavlikov) and Stella Garside (Cherry-May Waterton) whose understanding of stage-craft and comedic timing were worth the price of the ticket alone. The rest of the cast looked ill at ease and, unsure of their characters’ back-story, did not ring entirely true. David Pritchard’s Sebastien did not ‘grow’ as he assumed more and more responsibilty for ‘saving the day’, mostly for himself as it turns out. Some real opportunities for comedy thus went missing.
The other important role was that of Jacob Frieland, the art dealer, whose confidence should have slowly unravelled in contrast to that of Sebastien, whose should have gone the other way. This cross-over is the dramatic structure of the play. Alan Foale’s performance had me concerned that there was something seriously wrong with the actor, rather than his character, as his contortions and facial expressions grew in alarming proportions as the play progressed.
What a pity there was no credit in the programme for the set designer or the construction team. This was simply magnificent, effectively evoking the atmosphere of a period Parisien apartment with a view across the Champs-Elysees. There was much to criticise in this production, but that it looked good was down to some hard work from the back-stage teams, who are so often taken for granted. The large audience obviously enjoyed themselves, and that of course, is the main thing.
- : admin
- : 23/10/2013