by Peter Nichols.

Apollo Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue W1D 7EZ.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 412 4658.
Review: Carole Woddis 8 May.

Mordant passions triumphantly at play.
Peter Nichols has long been ripe for rediscovery. So it’s a joy to welcome back this most delightfully subversive of playwrights to the West End with his 1981 comedy about love and adultery, hot on the heels of Privates on Parade (1977) earlier in the year.

David Leveaux too has produced a thumpingly classy production to accompany it, with enough glimpses of bare flesh and amorous clinches to titillate the most jaded palate.

Leveaux leavens the sauce with blasts of Mozart’s Requiem and a Bach in what becomes a little too obvious underlining of the tragedy swirling beneath the banter.

This is, after all, a play also about the other `passion’ – death – and the transmutation of the carnal act into High Art. Nichols has a fine old time ranting at the Christian tradition that has so successfully lobbied to keep what should be natural joyful physical congress corseted in guilt.

But that, of course, is the bit on the side. The main course is his refreshingly adult exploration of marital betrayal, deception, hypocrisy and the contrast between the individual’s inner and outer personalities.

If Pinter writing on a similar theme in Betrayal (1978) used the rewind to great effect, Nichols’ alter ego device offers endless opportunities for humorously exposing dreadful inconsistencies, outright temptations and weak surrenders.

Entering stormy mid-life after 25 years of apparent solid marriage, Zoë Wanamaker delights as Eleanor, specs fixed permanently to head, a sea of apparent calm and liberal tolerance to Owen Teale’s James, a picture-restoring child of his generation, desperate for one last surge before the onset of old age rubs him out.

With the passage of time, the play gives off an even more pungent flavour of the heady cultural shifts of the ’60s and ’70s and its studied sexual liberation. The jokes about troilism seem if anything in today’s oddly confused world more risqué than ever.

Directed and choreographed by Leveaux at pace, the four headliners – Wanamaker, Teale, Oliver Cotton and Samantha Bond – swoop and dive, scarcely missing a beat. As the vampish, barely credible Kate, Annabel Scholey deserves all credit.

Kate: Annabel Scholey
James: Owen Teale
Eleanor: Zoë Wanamaker
Agnes: Sian Thomas
Jim: Oliver Cotton
Nell: Samantha Bond

Other parts played by:
Matt Weyland and Kelly Burke

James/Jim: Geoffrey Towers
Eleanor/Nell/Agnes: Ruth Redman
Kate: Harriet Green

Director: David Leveaux.
Designer: Hildegard Bechtler.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Costume: Laura Hopkins.
Associate director: Jason Lawson.
Associate costume: Helen Lovett Johnson.

2013-05-10 10:00:57

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