THE SUNSHINE BOYS
by Neil Simon.
Coliseum Theatre Fairbottom Street OL1 3SW To 23 October 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 16, 20, 23 Sept 2.30pm.
Audio Described: 19 Oct.
BSL Signed 14 Oct.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 624 2829.
Review: Stoon 8 October 2010.
Worth raising your sunglasses for.
Circumstances dictate that the highlight of Neil Simon’s 1972 tale of a once nationally treasured Vaudeville double act, who are offered the chance to reunite for a CBS TV comedy tribute, lies at the end of the first act. To these bare bones add the facts that they shared a mutual loathing during their 43 years together and haven’t spoken for 11 years, and achieving a balanced affair is a trifle tricky.
Joyce Branagh’s production cries out for Red Bull as Willie, the crotchety half of the aged duo, takes forever to make the tea, fix the TV and let his long suffering nephew and agent (Ben) into his dingy hotel room. Things are less formulaic once Willie’s administered his routine berating to his only meaningful relative who visits weekly – for Ben breaks the news of the proposed mega-bucks, one-off TV special.
Willie’s simmering reluctance clashes with an inner need to partake, whetting our appetite. By the time Al, his former partner of the aforesaid 43 years, knocks at his hotel room door to discuss the matter, we’re positively salivating – justifiably so as David Fielder does as good an impersonation of the late George Burns (who won an Oscar for the 1975 film) as you’ll catch this side of heaven, both in terms of diction and mannerisms. By the time Al leaves we’re shivering in sympathy with the quivering knife handle that lies embedded in the lounge table, a perfect interval cliff-hanger.
Foxton’s second act pastiche TV studio set is dandy and though things are less heightened in the nurse and nephew scenes, Robert Pickavance’s mellower Willie brings realism along with increasing quotients of humanity. This doesn’t translate into a saccharine final meeting between Willie and Al, but the air of unspoken mutual respect comes as a relief and lingers as a pleasant memory of both the evening and the genre of comic duos as a whole.
Willie: Robert Pickavance.
Ben: Dominic Gately.
Al: David Fielder.
Miss MacKintosh/Edie: Marianne Benedict.
Voice Of TV Director: Simeon Truby.
Miss O’Neill: Maxine Burth.
Director: Joyce Branagh.
Lighting: Thomas Weir.
Sound: Lorna Munden.
Voice coach: Caroline Hetherington.