FRENCH WITHOUT TEARS, London, To 30 July

London
French Without Tears,
By Terence Rattigan
4Stars ****

Orange Tree Theatre to July 30
1 Clarence Street,
Richmond,
Surrey TW9 2SA

Runs: 2hrs 15mins including 20 min interval

TICKETS: Box Office: 020 8940 3633
On-line: www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk

Review: Carole Woddis of perf seen July 4, 2016:

Beneath the surface a lot is going on
Boys will be boys – and in Terence Rattigan’s French Without Tears (1936), women are seen as okay if they were more or less surrogate fellas. Anything more extravagant and they are quickly deemed `femmes fatales’.

Being Rattigan, of course, that’s only half the picture. There’s more to his `comedy of manners’ – and in fact plenty of tears – for all its light, frothy appearance. Ultimately, Rattigan’s first major hit is an elegantly observed critique of the young, British upper-class male, just before war fractured everything. More honestly than most, Rattigan seems to be saying, men were terrified of women.

Like Noel Coward, a certain amount of concealed auto-biography may be going on here, particularly in the character of Alan, cynical, witty, agonising (as did Rattigan) over a choice of career between becoming a writer or joining the diplomatic service, for which purpose the rest of his compatriots are boarding at a house in south west France, ostensibly to brush up their French.

Alongside Alan, there is Kit hopelessly in love with the flirtatious `scalp-hunter’ Diana; Brian, jolly, bumbling, good-natured and `Jack’, the daughter of French tutor, Monsieur Maingot, with eyes only for Kit.

It only takes a further element to stir the brew to boiling point. It comes in the unlikely shape of naval officer, Commander Rogers.

In Paul Miller’s sparkling, recast production – returning for a second time before touring this autumn with the English Touring Theatre – Tim Delap as Rogers gives a deliciously subtle portrayal of pomposity. When mixed with falling in love’s absurdities, it produces some classic Feyeauesque/Love’s Labours Lost comic mayhem – none more so than Rogers and Kit, both in fancy dress fighting over Diana, only to end up best chums.

A study in male folly, Rattigan also makes a thoughtful analysis of the difference between love and sex. Miller’s revival is welcome. For some reason, despite its original popularity, it’s rarely revived these days. But judging by the enthusiastic reception from the Orange Tree’s young audience, its appeal endures.
A showcase of budding talent, Beatriz Romilly, impressive at the Arcola in the harrowing, After Independence (see review) is here delightfully insouciant as the patient, wise `Jack’.

French Without Tears,
By Terence Rattigan

Cast:
Kenneth Lake: Alistair Toovey
Brian Curtis: Alex Large
Alan Howard: Ziggy Heath
Marianne: Ariane Gray
Monsieur Maingot: David Whitworth
Commander Rogers: Tim Delap
Diana Lake: Florence Roberts
Kit Neilan: Joe Eyre
Jacqueline Maingot: Beatriz Romilly

Director: Paul Miller
Designer: Simon Daw
Lighting Designer: Mark Doubleday
Composer: David Shrubsole
Sound Associate: Becky Smith
Costumer Supervisor: Holly Rose Henshaw
Fight Director: Terry King
Associate Director: Spencer Noll
Casting Consultant: Ellie Collyer-Bristow
Casting Assistant: Rebecca Murphy

An Orange Tree and English Touring Theatre production

After performances at the Orange Tree, French Without Tears tours with English Touring Theatre in the Autumn to Exeter, Harrogate, Barnstable, Cheltenham, Doncaster, Oldham, Warwick, Poole and Huddersfield.
See www.ett.org.uk for more details.

First performance of this production of French Without Tears at the Orange Tree Theatre, June 30, 2016
First perf of previous production of French Without Tears at the Orange Tree Theatre, Oct 8, 2015

2016-07-06 10:01:37

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