Skip to content

‘And in ‘and, oo la la! : French Twist

3 July 2017

French Twist

by Matthew Ryan after Georges Feydeau and Eugene Labiche

Teddington Theatre Club at Hampton Hill Theatre until 8th July

Review by Wendy Summers

French Twist is an evening of traditional French farce as seen through the eyes of a modern day Australian writer.  This in itself made it a must see for me: I quite genuinely could not fathom how it would work.   The author, Matthew Ryan has provided an excellent programme note for this production that explains quite clearly his desire to stay true to the original Labiche and Feydeau plays whilst appealing to a 21st Century audience.  This  approach works well but where Ryan is really clever is that he has taken two plays written some twenty years apart by different writers and conjoined them to make an evening’s entertainment that is perfectly joined up.  It is worth concentrating in the first half for clues as to what might happen in the second!

HWP_9926

The plays themselves, in the main, stand up to their reinvention well, although the second half of the evening, The Coal Seller Affair is far funnier than Jailbird and certainly resonated much better with the first night audience.  When Ryan says he made connections so that the plays go hand in hand, he does not only refer to the script and the team at Teddington Theatre Club have understood this well.   The main construction of the set remains the same, with some minor changes between the two acts; and the playing of La Marseillaise at the end of the first half and again at the beginning of the second serves to highlight the continuity between the two pieces.   As with pantomime, costumes in a farce play a huge part in identifying the characters.  Mags Wrightson’s costumes deserve a special mention here.  They are flattering, French and fantastic (in the true sense of the word) and it is impossible not to recognise each character type as soon as they make their first entrance.  An enormous amount of detail has been thought out in this production from all of the technical team.  The normally unsung person of the props cupboard (on this occasion Penny Heighes) has excelled in the provision of period gin bottles and newspapers, sparkling cat collars and various types of rotten fruit to name just a few of the odd things to grace the TTC stage this week.

HWP_9863

Crucially though, in order for these plays to work, the same five actors must all appear in both plays.  It would  have been easy for a club theatre such as TTC to double cast this play in order to provide opportunities for more actors.  Director Steve Taylor wisely opted not to do this and has found five actors versatile enough to seem believable in totally different roles either side of the interval.

HWP_9683

 

This is an ensemble piece that requires the above versatility to be married to the ability to play farce effectively.  This latter is not easy and some actors fared better than others in delivery, but all five work well together and have obviously worked hard at getting it right.   Although much of the characterisation is, by definition, OTT and scene-stealing is de rigueur there is no upstaging in this production at all.  The play has been directed with precision – one could almost say it has been choreographed – and it is with an obvious amount of confidence that each actor knows exactly where they should be and how they should be moving at any given time.  But one cannot pre-judge an audience reaction and there were times on opening night that some of the jokes may well have not got the laugh they deserved because the cast were not confident in waiting for that laugh to come.  Of course these audience reactions will be different at each performance so now that first night nerves are out of the way and the cast become more comfortable in their roles it is hoped that they will be able to read the audience a little better and receive the responses they – and the script – deserve.

HWP_0092

Despite the ensemble feel to the piece each actor had – and took – the opportunity to excel in each play.  Special mention must go to Jeremy Gill and Daniel Wain for their ability to not lose their comic timing  – or their breath – in the more physical scenes that any farce worth its salt cannot be without.  They make a formidable double act.   Dave Dadswell and Graham Titcombe both made the most of their somewhat lesser stated characters and were very entertaining, although they seemed less comfortable with the genre than the other actors.  However, Rachel Burnham as Pepita+Norine managed not only to survive as the lone female on stage but positively shine.  La Lombelle is alive and well and living somewhere near Hampton!

HWP_9863

In conclusion, whether you go to see French Twist to undertake an academic exercise on adaptations of classic plays, to find out what happens to Fido the dog or where to buy the best strawberries in Paris, or just for a light hearted evening of comedy I doubt you will be disappointed.

Wendy Summers

July 2017

Photographs by Hand Written Photography

Advertisements

From → Drama, Reviews

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: