A NAUGHTY NIGHT WITH NOEL COWARD
We Were Dancing & The Better Half
by Noel Coward.
The Old Red Lion
Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4 NJ to 24 August 2015.
Tues –Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat 2pm & Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 084 412 4307.
Review: William Russell 6 August.
Tonight at 7.30 – for a change.
The overall title for this pairing of two short plays by The Master is pretty ghastly and also misconceived as they are really not at all naughty, but rather two sophisticated diversions on the nature of marriage and what keeps couples together – or not, as the case may be.
We Were Dancing is one of the playlets Coward wrote in 1935 for Tonight at 8.30, a showcase for himself and Gertrude Lawrence, while The Better Half was written in 1922 for a series of plays being performed at the Little Theatre and then forgotten.
The plays are both about marriages in crisis. In We Were Dancing a wife falls for a handsome stranger she meets at a dance and tells her dull husband that she is leaving with him,. Only she discover that what happens on the dance floor may be romantic but he wants to take her to Australia and that will never do. In the second a bored wife taunts her best friend, who is in love with her dull husband, then taunts him and eventually walks out leaving the pair not quite knowing what to do.
They are polished and witty and are nicely played although everyone really needs to relax a little more. Coward’s dialogue will carry the actor.
They strain a little too hard. However Lianne Harvey is delightful as the foolish Louise planning to dance out of the frying pan with one dull man into the fire with one with whom she has even less in common. Tracey Pickup sizzles as the brittle Alice putting her husband in his place and heading into the unknown.
John MacCormick is suitably non plussed by what Louise plans and then goes along with it, which is not quite what she had in mind, James Sindail is suavely handsome as the love object, and Stephen Fawkes copes with his frightful Alice manfully. Both plays make an effective pairing, a kind of theatrical bon bouche rather than a wholly satisfying evening fleshed out with one or two Coward songs.
Louise Charteris: Lianne Harvey.
Hubert Charteris: John MacCormick.
Karl Sandys: James Sindall.
Clara Bethel/Marion: Beth Eyre.
Alice/Eva Blake: Tracey Pickup.
David/George Davies: Stephen Fawkes.
Ippaga: Tom Self.
Major Blake: James Lorcan.
Director: Jimmy Walters.
Costume Designer: Rosemary Elliot Dancs.
Set Designer: Oliver Daukes.
Lighting Designer: Philip Jones.
Choreographer: Lauren Harvey.
Musical Director: Piers Sherwood Roberts.