Review – Ring Round the Moon, Playhouse Theatre, London

Thursday 14 February 2008

The Whingers are suddenly completely unsure about their policy on what constitutes a good play.

After whinging about the lack of plot through the previous night’s The Hour (and thirty-five minutes) We Knew Nothing of Each Other, Jean Anouilh‘s “enchanting comedy” Ring Round The Moon offered rather a surfeit of it.

Phil struggled manfully (well, as manfully as anything he does) to keep up with the various goings-on. Andrew struggled (unsuccessfully) to stay awake although he claims this was due to a combination of the unbearable heat of the Playhouse Theatre and a very stressful, busy, high-level executive day at the office (does anyone actually know what he does?)

Looking back on it all, the Whingers think they might just have coped with the identical twins device (nice brother, nasty brother) played by the Jude Law-ish JJ Feild (sic, who, we note from his CV, has a parachute certificate which must come in handy). But there was some unpleasant bickering afterwards as to whether the nice brother had sometimes been impersonating the nasty brother or vice versa or neither.

But what threw us totally off course was the presence of two female characters who both Whingers had inadvertently conflated into one, with the result that they were quite shocked by the activities of a society lady who appeared to be putting out to rather too many people than was entirely seemly for the era. To be fair to the Whingers (and we always are) both were dressed in similar colours and sported not unalike hairdos. Confusing.

Thankfully there was no such confusion between wheelchair-bound harridan Madame Desmortes (Angela Thorne) and her put-upon companion Capulet (Joanna David). Phil was able to tell these two apart instantly, recognising parallels with his own life and his long-suffering companionship with the increasingly matriarchal Andrew.

Anyway Lady India (Emily Bruni, Phil finally worked out which was which from the rehearsal photos – very NT – in the programme) and Patrice (Andrew Havill) perform the highlight of act one with a hilarious dance sequence performed with dialogue as Lady India pleads for poverty. Bruni wass excellent but it was the only big laugh of  Phil’s evening (Andrew was still comatose).

Then there’s the character called Mother (Belinda Lang) whose scenes even Andrew managed to appreciate was rather good. There are some quite amusing lines courtesy of poet Christopher Fry who adapted Anouilh’s play.

Yes the Whingers are making the whole thing sound rather watchable aren’t they and so you’ll be asking why they left at the interval?

Well, in the cold light of day Phil’s wondering too, but like Capulet in the play he buckled under the martinet’s power (or lack of staying power).

Incidentally, it’s interesting to note from the programme notes that director Sean Mathias decided to set the play in this period because it has the nicest frocks. Well done Sean (or rather designer Colin Richmond): the frocks are fabulous and Andrew is inspired to go for the New Look now instead of the well-worn dirndl (not to be confused with durndel which the urban dictionary defines as “old cat turds” although that could be appropriate too) he usually sports on a night at the theatre.


Mark Shenton’s blog today reveals this rather priceless nugget:

Even if [Jeffrey] Archer’s career as a playwright won’t exactly earn him a permanent place in theatre history, I discovered in one of my interviews on Tuesday that his legacy to at least one West End theatre is going to be more enduring: he owned the Playhouse Theatre on Northumberland Avenue for a time, and – according to JJ Feild, currently starring there in Ring Round the Moon — he actually sold off the theatre’s dressing rooms to be converted into apartments. “When you look at the theatre on the left,” JJ told me, “those were the dressing rooms – so now we’re all forced to share the few rooms in the basement. We’ve become this big family underneath the stalls!”

7 Responses to “Review – Ring Round the Moon, Playhouse Theatre, London”

  1. Barbara Cockburn Says:

    I’m planning on seeing this tonight if my companion is able to get tickets. I reckon it won’t be sold out!
    Even though you slate it, I’m going to keep an open mind. But I’ll elt you know whether I agree. Leaving at the interval? It must have been truly dire!
    I’ll be suggesting an alternative to my theatre buddy in the unlikely event of not being able to get tickets.

  2. Katie Says:

    I saw this on Saturday and really enjoyed it. I didn’t think the plot was that complicated and I followed it with ease. You do have to pay attention to what is going on, but I don’t see that as being a bad thing.

    JJ Feild was excellent as Hugo/Frederic and I thought it was clear who was on stage each time. The rest of the cast were all very good too.

  3. Karen Says:

    I also saw this play last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was still in preview. The cast was amazing, with every line delivered with panache. I am a teeny tiny bit biased, as I am already a big fan, but thought JJ Feild was particularly excellent at playing the twins. Elizabeth Dermot Walsh was also great in Ring Round The Moon as Diana. I last saw her in The Country Wife, where hers was one of the few performances I liked…

  4. Doesn’t JJ Feild have pixie-looking ears? As if he’s the changeling that the Fair Folk didn’t quite get round to leaving with Mr & Mrs Law and stealing their little Jude.

  5. Paul de Lange Says:

    I am amazed and confused by all the comments about paying attention in this play. Do you normally go to the theatre and just switch off? Are you really that lazy? Have we become a spoon fed , brain dead society. Come on, Ring Round the moon, is light and witty , with strong writing , superb acting, a wonderfull set, fabulous costumes, what more can you ask for? It was truly an old fashioned night out at the theatre, an event ,wich i enjoyed beyond measure. It is a pitty that reviews are being written by people that just rush from one show to the next and then complain about having to actually pay attention to what is going on, on stage.

  6. Not sure about the whole of society, Paul, but yes, Phil does have to be spoon-fed most of the time. And you should see his bib laundry bill!

    But the jury is still out with regard to whether he is brain dead or not so fingers crossed.

  7. AllShookUp Says:

    Yes, I was as bewildered as you two by the plot, and equally baffled by the two female characters in similar frocks and hairdos – although one does refer to hers as ‘aubergine’, possibly an aide memoire inserted following your review. Also there were two intervals at the performance yesterday, so either you slept through one of them, or…..

    But you should have stuck it out.. it grew stronger towards the ending. And they all lived happily ever after, in case you were wondering.

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