Review: An Englishman Abroad/Still Life
Sadly, I'm old enough to remember double-bills at the cinema.
But I've never seen one at the theatre, so I was curious about the latest RLT production. Two one act plays performed back to back had to be interesting.
An Englishman Abroad tells the story of a real meeting between the actress Coral Browne and the Russian spy Guy Burgess.
Still Life is the Noel Coward play on which the film Brief Encounter is based. Two very different plays with the potential to provide very different audience experiences especially if, like me, you're not familiar with either.
Two things were striking from the outset. The first was the incorporation of the projection screen. I hadn't seen it used before, but it worked well in both productions, particularly
when illustrating the passage of time in Still Life.
The second was the lighting. Clever focus on Liz Williams' Coral Browne during the opening monologue led to the surprising revelation that she wasn't alone. Indeed, in both plays attention needed diverting to different parts of the set at times, and the lighting underlined that very effectively.
For both plays, the set was critical, and the contrast between the shabby shambles of Guy Burgess's flat and the authentic looking 1930s railway station cafe was remarkable. The transformation during the interval can only be down to a combination of clever set design and hard work by the crew.
I've not seen many Alan Bennett plays, but I had an expectation of more humour than Englishman appeared to offer. That was, most likely, a misunderstanding on my part, and the play did provide an interesting perspective on an era familiar to many people.
Although I've never seen Brief Encounter, I thought I had the
gist of the story, but I was surprised how much humour there
was in Still Life. While the leading characters, ably played by
Julian Roberts and Stephanie Lee, were the serious focus of
the story, the supporting cast provided welcome light relief.
Some of these had appeared in Englishman, with Peter Thomas taking on his second significant role of the evening. I'm always impressed with someone remembering lines for a whole play.
To master the lines of two plays and two separate characters
is a major achievement.
For my money, though, the show was stolen by Gaby Hardwick's performance, creating comedy while delivering straight lines. Marvellous.
Although a smaller part, Angela Ingall's portrayal of the garrulous Dolly Messiter was also an outstanding contribution. We need to see more of her.
With only one set, and many scenes focused on specific areas
of the stage, background cast were very convincing in their continued (silent) actions and dialogue. It may seem minor, but
is worthwhile attention to detail.
Putting together these two plays has clearly been a colossal
task, requiring great team work and rehearsal. I can only take
my hat off to everyone involved for getting so much of it right
on the first night.
RLT Youth Theatre
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Saturday 16th April, 7:30pm and
Sunday 17th April, 2:30pm
From the hilarious mischief of the elf Puck to the rough humor of the self-centered Bottom and his fellow players, from the palace of Theseus in Athens to the magic wood where fairies play, Shakespeare's marvelous A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play of enchantment and an insightful portrait of the predicaments of love.
Click here for further information.
Our Next Production
THE VICAR OF DIBLEY
Friday 20th to Saturday 28th May 2016, 7:30pm
When their elderly vicar passes away, congregation members in Dibley are surprised to find that a woman has been assigned to their parish. And not just any woman - Geraldine Granger is outgoing, vivacious and fun-loving, as well as caring and committed to her flock. Hilarity ensues as Geraldine tries to win over the stodgy council members while staying true to herself and her pastorate.
Click here for further information.
The Season Brochure for the forthcoming 2015-2016 season of plays is now available.
You can download a copy directly from this site, or if you'd prefer, you can complete the form on the Contact page, and we'll post one to you.