Skip to main content

Review of The Sunshine Boys at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

As has often been the case I arrived totally cold as to what I was going to see and experience from The Playhouse's production of The Sunshine Boys. The writer Neil Simon was unknown to me (research today has told me that he wrote classics The Odd Couple and Barefoot In The Park, and it is true, shockingly, that I have seen neither), therefore what I was going to get either way was a surprise. All I really knew was that is was a comedy. How sharp, witty and caustically funny is was to be was a remarkable surprise.

It was also great news to discover that one of my favourites of the Playhouse regulars, Graham Follett, was the main star. In all the shows I have seen, I have admired his generally soft and gentle approach to the roles. It was however a huge pleasure to see him playing against that type I have previously seen in the role of Willie Clark, a opinionated, miserable and often downright rude ex-vaudeville star, one half of a long dissolved double act. He is immediately perfect in the role, dishevelled in appearance as he shuffles around his shrunken home, and with a face perfect for selling medicine for stomach aches. It's the best I have personally seen him in a role and one that he embodies perfectly.

Also quite brilliant as his early sparring partner is Richard Smith as his nephew and agent Ben Silverman. He is gently persuasive in his well meaning way of bringing the duo back together, and is the catalyst for the plays progression. He also brings over well his obvious love for his uncle, clearly worried for not only his health but his very obvious loneliness. It is a well played, but importantly underplayed performance.

Jem Clack as Clark's old partner Al Lewis plays the downtrodden straight man's role perfectly, despite also having his regular own moments with his spittle and pointy finger. He is the star of the duo as Willie willingly admits, but Clack's performance feels perfectly pitched to allow Follett to remain the lead character. Their performance of the sketch itself is perfectly timed, and wonderfully boils over when Clark's character delivers his typing on the typewriter line. The ending of this scene (no spoilers) is judged perfectly and has an impact following all the humour that has gone before.

Away from the leads, I absolutely loved Jill-Rhianna Green's perfectly sounding period announcements. It was also great to see, albeit briefly, Fiona Abbis in the admittedly thankless role of the sketch nurse Miss Mackintosh. This perhaps is the only sticking point for a modern audience, in that it is a tremendously sexist play. Even the other main female role of the real nurse, Miss O'Neill (Corinna Leeder), is put down at every opportunity. It is indeed a play very much of its time and it needs to be regarded at such.

Andrew Nettleship's direction keeps everything moving on that lovely little stage and scene charges are kept wonderfully brief. The set is perfectly in keeping with the glum apartment of Clark and happily becomes the CBS stage in the second act. There are also plenty of props for Lewis and Clark to move back and forwards during that hugely comic scene towards the end of the first half.

A wonderfully witty play very much of its time and performed superbly well, especially by the three leads who spark off one another wonderfully well. Definitely up there with the best I have seen at the Playhouse and comes very highly recommended.

Performance reviewed: Wednesday 27th January, 2016

The Sunshine Boys continues at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton until Saturday 30th January, 2016. For full details visit their website at http://www.theplayhousetheatre.net/
Photo copyright The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of The Last Ship at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

When The Last Ship first launched as a musical on Broadway (adapted from a concept album by Sting), it was received with a mixture of reaction, most thoughts though of the negative nature, the critics especially found the whole thing far from shipshape. Here, having launched in its spiritual home of Newcastle, it arrives in very landlocked Northampton on a UK tour in a very different form. Characters have been dropped, songs have been reordered, storylines reworked, and original cast members are gone. So, whether the US audience would have been appreciative of this new The Last Ship is unknown, however, there is an incredible amount to like from this show and on Northampton opening night reactions, the audience here is liking what they see.

Gideon has returned, having taken to the seas 17 years before, leaving his girlfriend Meg behind and a strong and stable shipyard in operation. On his return, things are very different, not least for Meg, who is initially not keen on his return, f…

Review of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I am personally all about making Shakespeare accessible, I take the Emma Rice line, that many were not keen on, that after a few hundred years, it's perhaps worthy of mixing it up a bit to make it more meaningful to a modern audience. I have a feeling the man himself would have no qualms about seeing his classic Hamlet transposed into a garish multi-coloured world, set in a much more hip place.
The Denmark that we see here and that is still referenced, is now very much an African country, and not just because of the heavy black actor casting, this is all about a style and a carnival feeling to many of the scenes. Music is provided by tribal-like drums, and characters stalk the scenes carrying handguns and rifles, bringing a modern feeling to the conflict as well. This is certainly not the "rotten state of Denmark" that most Shakespeare aficionados are familiar with.
Characters are changed drastically as we have more cocksure, swaggering, modern feeling to the individual…

Review of Madame Bovary by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Rosanna Lowe's version of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary was originally commissioned by Simon Godwin for the Northampton Royal Theatre, so it perhaps seems apt, that it returns to a stage of the same town, in this new wacky interpretation from Masque Theatre.

Masque's publicity for the show, describes it as a "madcap tragedy", and for those more familiar with Flaubert's novel you shall perhaps be a little surprised by the anarchic version created here. This is tragedy played for full-on slapstick effect, and while at times it might seem overwhelming in its intensity, the ride we are taken on is a delight.

Directed by Tamsyn Payne and Alex Rex and a team of talented creatives, Madame Bovary's props and design are every bit as important as the talented cast wielding them. For an amateur production, the attention to detail is nothing short of staggering. Gloriously created books filled with delights, puppet dogs and children, mini nuns, and little baskets…