DramaReviewSouth West

Mr. and Mrs. Laughton – Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Writer: Michael-Alan Read
Director: Gethin Evans
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions

 

Sherman Theatre returns to the A Play, A Pie and A Pint format for their co-production with Òran Mór of Mr. and Mrs. Laughton. This is the Welsh premiere of Michael-Alan Read’s new play about the famous marriage between Hollywood great Charles Laughton (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Secret Life of Henry VIII) and Elsa Lanchester (The Bride of Frankenstein).

Read’s script is an interesting, if brief, look at the private lives of Laughton and Lanchester that invites the audience to see what went on behind the closed doors of the home they shared. Told from the perspective of Lanchester, the action switches between narrative and live-action snippets of their private life together. This interesting format works well to give an insight into Lanchester’s life particularly and is ably assisted by Ross Kirkland’s lighting design; cold and clinical for the narrative, switching to warmer tones for the scenes played out between Laughton and Lanchester.

Little more is needed to create a home in this small-scale play than a seat and a rug, as provided in the design by Jonathan Scott, so why the backdrop for this piece should be a large pale grey triangle is unclear. Lanchester’s outfit similarly does nothing to transport the audience back in time. The soundscape, by Andy Cowan, does not help to set the scene either. The low rumble of industrial sounding noises designed to create a feeling of unease, that seem to accompany far too many new small-scale productions at the moment, is simply out of place here. Although the play spans the 30-plus years the pair were married, more could be done to give a feel for the era in which they lived.

Steven McNicoll and Abigail McGibbon give enjoyable performances as Laughton and Lanchester but there is a lack of chemistry between them that makes it very difficult to be truly moved by the characters. Their story is told, and told well, but the heart does not go out to Lanchester as we watch her having to accept and live with Laughton’s homosexuality, and no tears are shed when Laughton falls ill and passes away.

The idea behind A Play, A Pie and a Pint is that people can stop off at the theatre on their way home from work. It has an earlier start time so one can leave work, pop in for a drink and a snack and watch a short play before heading home. In this context, this production works quite well. It is an enjoyable way to spend an hour with friends but is ultimately a bit forgettable.

Runs until 12 March 2016 | Image: Contributed

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