by Eugène Marin Labiche translated by Jeremy Sams.
Ustinov Studio Theatre Royal Bath Sawclose BA1 1ET To 7 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 November.
Stylishly perfect and deservedly Popular.
Bath’s ever-inventive Ustinov turns its attention to French farce this autumn, and in the first of two productions offers an hilarious lesson in the genre’s development. That most musical of theatre translators and directors Jeremy Sams reveals, in a dramatist predating farce-master Georges Feydeau, how it relates to the non-realism of Variety, with songs, direct acknowledgment of the audience by spoken asides and facial expressions of complicity, as well as expressing how people really feel, as opposed to speaking what they ought to say.
Comedy’s age-old situation of an older man agonising over the fidelity of a young wife is turned on its head when the title character, Raymond Coulthard’s debonair 47-year old Celimar, decides to marry. While his proposed father-in-law, given a bluff investigative concern by Iain Mitchell, is suspicious, Celimar’s main problem is burning multiple love letters from two recent mistresses, both of whose husbands account themselves among his best of friends and insist on turning-up at inconvenient moments.
Two acts culminate in Celimar finding marriage easier to achieve than endure, with its tight-knit circle of cosy domestic evenings. Escape to the country brings a new lease of activity, and a more relaxed mood to Sams’ music, while Polly Sullivan’s set, which has suggested the cramped centre of Paris, with the ever-flexible Ustinov space seeming like a booth stage, its walls obviously stylised, opens-up to suggest an airy place with a rural prospect ready for a Renoir to paint.
There’s no let-up in comic incident and Coulthard maintains a debonair cheer over his moments of anxiety, while Mitchell is contrasted by Howard Ward’s ebullience and Gregory Gudgeon’s alternation of worry and complacency as the deceived husbands. As mother-in-law and wife Nicola Sloane and Charlotte Wakefield show that being less voluble does not make the women’s presence any less a complication for the man who maintains himself everybody’s friend.
Karoline Gable and Stephen Matthews are Celimar’s highly capable, ever-active servants, whose musical contributions open with a witty resemblance to the situation, if not melody, of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, its story derived from an earlier connubial French comedy.
Adelina: Karoline Gable.
Pitois: Stephen Matthews.
Colombot: Iain Mitchell.
Celimar: Raymond Coulthard.
Vernouillet: Gregory Gudgeon.
Bocardon: Howard Ward.
Madame Colombot: Nicola Sloane.
Emma: Charlotte Wakefield.
Director/Composer: Jeremy Sams.
Designer: Polly Sullivan.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Sound: Sebastian Frost.
Musical Director: Jan Laird.
Movement: Alyssa Noble.
Associate director: Rupert Hands.