Author: Tom Stoppard
Director: Kate Saxon
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
Some of my fondest memories of the Theatre are associated with Tom Stoppard plays, Jumpers and Travesties in particular which I saw when first written 30 years or so ago. So I was very much looking forward to the visit to Brighton last night, even though in competition with England playing in the European Football Chamionship, and I was not disappointed.
Stoppard’s success has been in writing ‘clever’ plays and this tale of romantic love and infidelity built around the plots and real life (sometimes indistinguishable) experience of a similarly successful ‘clever’ playwright is another in this line of witty, word-loving creations. Stoppard’s use and manipulation of language is a delight and it is interesting to note the reference in the programme interview to certain autobiographical elements in the central character Henry.
From the off the cast were impressive. Simon Scardifield as Max and Sarah Ball as Charlotte opened in style both as their fictional and real selves and this was maintained by the appearance of Gerald Kyd as Henry who portrayed a believable mix of self-satisfaction, frustration and naivety that underpinned the action. Marianne Oldham as Annie played really well, what might have been described as a slightly ‘kooky’ character when the play was written, combining a sense of a free spirit with conventional attitudes, if such a thing is possible.
The four of them were well supported by their colleagues and by the subtle direction of Kate Saxon, clearly bringing out Stoppard’s witty use of words and keeping the play rattling along at a vigorous place. On top of this the composition of Dominic Haslam and the clever use of period tracks by Mic Pool, an intriguing set and good use of the moving stage by Simon Higlett, well and atmospherically lit by Paul Pyant, all added a touch of real class.
The audience obviously enjoyed it. There was a good response to the wit and some really telling silences at crucial moments suggesting appreciation of the performance, even though there was significant applause too early in the final scene, suggesting that not everyone was quite on Stoppard’s wavelength.
So if you love language and like a production that keeps you mentally on the tip of your seat, this one is worth a visit.