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Posted by : mark-courtice on Sep 28, 2003 - 08:52 PM Archive

by John Godber

Haymarket Theatre To 4 October 2003.
MonSat 7.45 pm Mat Thursday 25 September & Saturday 4 October 2pm
Page-to-Stage Day: Thursday 25 September from 10:30am
BSL Signed:26 September
Audio-described performance & pre-show Touch Tour: Saturday 4 October 2pm
Runs 1hr 50min One Interval

Tickets: 01256 465566
Review Mark Courtice: 25 September

More crème caramel than Yorkshire pudding.

Basingstoke's Haymarket Theatre is going all French this season, with a programme that includes Therese Raquin and Moliere. Audiences are being eased into the French mood with John Godber's feel-good cross-channel excursion.

Yorkshire couple Al and Bet win a prize trip to Paris, and afterwards their grumpy marriage, along with everything else in their lives, will never be the same again.

Godber obviously likes and respects these people, and has written a piece that has real affection and acute observation driving its message of redemption and possibility. And while neither script nor production takes much trouble to avoid the obvious (jokes about bidets and eating snails, with Aznavour and the can-can on the sound track), working class (or out-of-working class in the case of Al) heroes are thin enough on the ground at the theatre for these two to be a refreshing change.

A scene where Al is a wallflower at the ferry disco is well written and in this production seized on by Andy Williams with skill. Both actors do well with the scene in the Louvre where as they see great art in the flesh for the first time, they realise that nothing will ever look the same again.

These performances are both thoughtful and energetic, and if there are relatively few surprises there is real pleasure in the emotional journey of this love story of married 30-somethings.

The visual side is less successful. The design, set against an Eiffel Tower-like frame that also has strong echoes of an easel (art as a redemptive power is a strong theme in the piece), is uninspiring, and the unsubtle lighting leaves dark patches into which the otherwise very capable actors disappear at times.

Al: Andy Williams
Bet: Kate Doherty

Director: Alasdair Ramsay
Designer: Elizabeth Wright
Lighting Design: Simon Hutchings
Sponsor: Haines Watts (Chartered Accountants)
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