ComedyDramaReviewSouth West

Rough Crossing – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Writer: Tom Stoppard

Director: Rachel Kavanaugh

Reviewer: Kelyn Luther

Rough Crossing is freely adapted from Ferenc Molnar’s The Play at The Castle, previously adapted by PG Wodehouse. However, Stoppard’s take is somewhat closer to that of Noël Coward.

Set on a cruise liner in the thirties, playwright Turai (John Partridge) is working on his new play, but is forced to put up with a temperamental leading lady (Issy Van Randwyck), as well as a leading man who still pines for her (Simon Dutton), and wimpy composer Adam (Rob Ostlere).

This featherweight comedy, whilst undoubtedly well-crafted in some of its lines and an ongoing joke about an elusive glass of cognac, feels a little stuck between a pastiche of Coward, and an attempt at writing a Coward comedy – but with all of the relationships removed.

As the actor with the best part by far, John Partridge is delightfully waspish as Turai, the playwright who wants to keep his play going despite all the spanners in the works. He throws his one-liners about the liner effectively, capturing the light comic touch of thirties comedy.

Behind the flimsy plot, are some nice Stoppardian touches, including the witty construction of the repeated business with staggering waiter Dvornichek (Charlie Stemp, a deft hand at farce) who accidentally thwarts Turai’s desire for a Cognac, and the farcical play-within-a-play that the actors rehearse in Act 2, with its unwieldy plot. However the meta-comedy at the beginning of the show, whilst it is hilarious in Stoppard’s one-act play, The Real Inspector Hound, feels more like a forced joke here.

In some ways, Rough Crossing feels like a musical that’s been robbed of its songs. We are tantalised with the excellent few little numbers written by the late Andre Previn. This Could Be the One and Where Do We Go from Here? feels like they could have come straight out of a period operetta – and of course, Partridge is no stranger to the musical scene. The little moments of song and dance make you yearn for a pastiche in the manner of Salad Days. Issy van Randwick’s background as part of cabaret act Fascinating Aida compliments the songs.

Stoppard’s wonderful linguistic flair doesn’t make up for the play’s slightness and falls far short of his classics, like Arcadia. The production bobs along but occasionally the actual actors, not just the characters they play, look a little lost at sea, hampered by a play that perhaps, wasn’t crying out for a revival.

Runs until 23rd March 2019 | Image: Pamela Raith Photography

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  1. I loved the matinee today. Felt some audience who were talking amongst themselves did not get it. You have to pay attention. Brilliant writing, timing and professional comic acting. John Partridge, who I hated in Eastenders showed his diversity at the Panto and now this.

  2. I saw this play last evening. It was just the worst thing I have ever seen. Over acting, same joke about the steward drinking the cognac over and over again. Pathetic storyline. Wanted to leave halfway, but husband made me stay. What a waste of money and I have seen some wonderful productions at this theatre.

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