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!”