Tag Archives: Theatre Royal Bath

Review The Nightingales, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

 

(3 / 5)

The setting is a church hall for William Gaminara’s witty new comedy The Nightingales, on tour before coming in to the West End. Gaminara has taken the concept of a local acapella group at their weekly rehearsal in said church hall. Despite a few missed chords and the like the group, under the direction of their Cambridge educated choirmaster Steven (played with empathy by Steven Pacey), the four singers who make up the group get on fine – until one day a newcomer, Maggie (Ruth Jones) arrives.

The role makes a welcome return to the stage for multi-talented Welsh actress Ruth Jones, who in 2014 was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for her services to entertainment. The role of Maggie who upsets the apple cart in more ways than   one, is perfect for Jones, best known for playing Nessa in the popular BBC TV comedy Gavin and Stacey, Jones engages with the audience from the moment she arrives on stage; her timing is spot-on. At first garrulous but otherwise harmless, before long Maggie’s arrival puts the cat among the pigeons, proving to be the catalyst which results in the layers being peeled back to reveal what lies beneath the surface bonhomie.

This is particularly applicable to the relationship between the scholarly choirmaster and his wife Diane, played appealingly by Mary Stockley, while the other female in the group, Connie (Sarah Earnshaw) has aspirations to hit the celebrity spotlight. Earnshaw’s characterisation is good, but her voice a tad shrill at times. Completing the Capella group are the two male singers: Connie’s husband Ben (Philip McGinley) a down to earth sort of bloke with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, contrasting with the charismatic and sexy Bruno – a great performance by the likeable Stefan Adegbola .

Peppered with bon mots and clever ripostes, Gaminara’s slick dialogue, on opening night in Cardiff, rained down upon a packed and eager audience, appearing at times somewhat laboured, at others too fast for all the jokes to be appreciated. There was also occasionally a need for a couple of the cast to guard against turning their backs to the audience, or at least to speak more clearly when doing so. Having said that, in this co-production by Jenny Topper and Theatre Royal Bath, director Christopher Luscombe has handled Gaminara’s concept cleverly, grabbing the flavour and that unique smell of the village hall – at atmospheric set by Jonathan Fensom – to the extent that one can almost smell the dusty floorboards.

Some of the best moments are – perhaps not surprisingly – the songs, notably George and Ira Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me, raising a tear among the laughs, as is so often the case with good comedy. Which brings us to the question: although billed as comedy, as the play progresses into the second half and home truths are revealed we see behind the masks to the sadness – so true to life.

And therein lies the skill in this play by actor-playwright Gaminara.

Runs until Saturday 24th November at New Theatre, Cardiff.

Worth a mention are the programme notes which include several highly amusing cartoons relevant to a play about a village choir,

Playwright: William Gaminara

Director: Christopher Luscombe

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

 

Review Things We Do For Love New Theatre, Cardiff by 3rd Age Critic Barbara Michaels

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Things We Do For Love  New Theatre, Cardiff

Writer: Alan Ayckbourn

Director: Laurence Boswell

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Rating:  [3.8]

A multi-layered romp – in more ways than one – Things We Do For Love was first staged in 1997.    The humour, and the dark edge behind it, are still relevant today, as indeed can be said of all of Ayckbourn’s plays.  Bedroom farce – yes, and you may choose to take it at its face value.  It is, indeed, a bedroom farce par excellence, as one would expect from one of Britain’s master playwrights.    But in fact there is much more to it than that – it could in some respects more correctly be classified as a tragic-comedy for that is what it is in the end.  For this reason, it is a piece that needs an expert hand on the tiller if it is to succeed.  Director Laurence Boswell shows his mettle with this revival by Theatre Royal Bath Productions, a good understanding of Ayckbourn and whence the piece is coming.

On the surface a light, at times raunchy, comedy, and staged on a single set throughout, there is much to laugh at as the characters lurch from one relationship to another in a romantic whirlwind of a plot..  The set, that of a middle floor flat of a converted house owned occupied by the elegant and glacial Barbara, allows the audience to see into both the flat above and the flat below.   While Barbara resides in lonely splendour on the middle floor, the upstairs apartment is the perfect bolthole for Nikki, Barbara’s old school friend, and her fiancé Hamish, while the downstairs room is occupied by Gilbert, a part-time postman and amateur plumber man who lusts after his ice maiden of a landlady in a somewhat unconventional way.  Feelings change and relationships crumble as the plot develops and the characters reveal their true selves.

As Barbara, Claire Price gives us a believable, no nonsense career girl who has no time for men let alone romance and slides seamlessly into portraying the love-stricken, not to mention energetic in the bedroom and elsewhere, and abandoned female which she becomes.   This is all due to her falling, big-time, for Hamish notwithstanding the fact that he is engaged to Nikki, avowedly her best friends since their school days. As Hamish, Edward Bennett looks suitably uncomfortable in the immaculate surroundings of Barbara’s flat while managing to project as a sort of male arm candy for whom women (literally) fall.

Making her stage debut, Natalie Imbruglia looks suitably fragile as Nikki, playing her as the stereotypical helpless-little-woman, irritating at times and yet managing to enlist sympathy and help from everyone including downstairs neighbour Gilbert.  Simon Gregor shows his expertise in this role, with evident relish and giving it full throttle.  The zany Gilbert has his dark side, and Gregor is adept in showing this beneath the banter.

This is classic Ayckbourn, showing us that what we see is not always what we get.  Things We Do For Love will strike a chord in many ways.  Ayckbourn’s cynical view is that love knows no boundaries and he is, of course, right.

Runs until Saturday May 17th