Sunday, February 22, 2009

Theatre: Where There's a Will

Arts Theatre, Cambridge, 21/2/2009.

One could ask what one of our leading theatrical knights - a former director of the RSC and the National Theatre, pushing 80 - is doing touring the provinces with an early pocket-sized Feydeau farce. The answer, though, is quite likely "having fun", or maybe "very well, thanks". (Okay, it also turns out that his wife, Nicki Frei, was responsible for this new translation.) His program notes suggest that Peter Hall sees this play as a formal theatrical exercise... But that sounds too po-faced for what is actually an effective comedy executed in an attractive production. Very attractive, actually; the scene is the reception room of a Parisian town house, decorated in light Art Nouveau style, and the cast look dead stylish in Edwardian costume. It's great to look at. I thought that the cast were good, too, quick and straight-faced; for a while I thought that Sara Stewart was channeling Felicity Kendal, but actually I think itwas just a similar intonation (and the sort of part she was playing).

The farce is up to Feydeau's usual standards - more talky rather than slapstick by some standards, but with a certain amount of climbing in and falling out of windows. The plot also leans on some very theatrical, possibly distinctly period use of hypnotism, although this isn't over-used. It naturally also features the sort of total amiable sexual amorality that gave France such a reputation for naughtiness among straight-laced Anglo-Saxons of the time.

Anyway, I enjoyed it.

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