Writer: Noël Coward
Director: Tom Littler
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
The Jermyn Street Theatre has set itself an ambitious task – staging a full schedule of Noël Coward’s group of one-act plays Tonight at 8.30. In addition to producing these nine smart shows, it is also staging three pieces of new writing – Tomorrow at Noon. These are brand new and have been chosen as a modern response to Coward’s 1930’s creations. Playing in repertory, each group of three can be seen separately, or on weekend days through the run, all 9 original plays are performed.
Bedroom Farces takes three of his plays in Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 series, and groups them along a theme of romance and comedy (unsurprisingly). A different line up to how they were originally presented, but the choice and framing here show them in very complementary fashion.
All three dealing with the manners, social situations and personal disputes of the well-heeled interwar class of British society. And all three seem to be written as excuses for Coward to flex his snappy talent for quips and repartee.
In We Were Dancing, a terribly polite conversation takes place on a veranda when a woman falls in love with a man at the club dance – something her husband finds most distasteful. It’s a fairly steady piece, never really takes off but not disappointing either – as the subject matter, it’s nice and polite. Ian Hallard as the reasonably debonair Karl Sandys (the interloper) grabs immediate attention. But it’s the cuts and put-downs the (quite annoying) wife played by Sara Crowe delivers to her husband’s busybody sister that are the highlight.
Following this, we move to the bedroom for the jewel in this trio. Ways and Means is ostensibly a bit of a caper about how a husband and wife can get enough money together to save themselves from social disgrace as they stay at a friend’s house on the Côte D’Azur. It’s tremendous fun watching the husband and wife squabble and support each other – Miranda Foster and Nick Waring are charismatic to a fault, and super to watch.
Finishing off with the slightly surreal Shadow Play means ending on a slightly sad note. With the trio set up to show the beginning of a love, and the progress, it’s natural enough to finish with a note on what happens when love runs out. Bittersweet, it’s set in a sleeping drug-induced dream where a women struggles to remember the happy times after her husband requests a divorce before she drifts off. A nice story, and some great lines, but is derailed a little by a lacklustre musical performance and the feeling that in this limited space, the grand idea didn’t get room to live.
Louie Whitemore’s sets are keenly detailed, providing an ideal visual placement for the action. The trio present an interesting look at love – but the focus really is on Cowards writing than his keen human insights. Nothing too deep, but very well turned out.
Runs until 10 May 2018 | Image: Contributed