Brighton Fringe 2012
Noel Coward’s classic is brought to the Grand Hotel by Something Witty, afte rtheir sell-out success last year.
The story centres on a divorced couple who discover that they are honeymooning with their new spouses in neighbouring rooms at the very same hotel. Quickly reviving what was often a turbulent, stormy relationship, they realise that they still have romantic feelings for each other.
I felt underdressed as so many of the audience were decked out for the decade in which the play is set. Clearly I am a Coward coward.
Noel Coward’s comedy is perfect for the Grand Hotel Albert Room. We are offered cocktails as we enter the carpeted room, and a string duet accompanies our entry. They really have set this up for a collective audience dive into a Noel Coward classic. Coward wrote one of his most loved songs, "Some Day I’ll Find You", for the play and it becomes a signature theme tune throughout this version, a home harbour for the action.
The performance takes place in the long semi round of the rectangular Albert Room. We sit, sipping our cocktails at round tables watching the action which takes place in the elongated middle.
Director Ross Drury has set the energy level just right for the high ceilinged venue and the blocking ensures that the whole audience get enough of the characters to remain fully engaged. The slightly echoey acoustics muffle the dialogue on occasions, especially during shouting matches and high emotions. There needs to be a bit more attention to clarity during these moments.
Act one claims the space well and sets up the conceit. Daniel Lane frowns suitably and puts plenty of verve into Elyot Chase, though he occasionally camps things up a little too much for my liking. Heather Rayment is more than a match as feisty Amanda Prime. Both are ably supported by Rebecca Cooper as Sybil and Jason Blackwater as Victor. The entire cast inhabit their characters skilfully throughout and they are more than able to raise their projection and modulation in such a large, potentially uneven space. We all get our fair slice of the action, and the variation in proximity based on our seated position becomes a virtue as we begin to see story and characters from different distances and perspectives. This is all the more so in this space than in a traditional theatre, even in the round, and it works a treat as immersive theatre, especially with so many of the qudience dressed up to the nines. The evocative decor enhances what a traditional even in the round theatre space provides. The venue choice is a big contributor to the success of the production.
The second half commences with focus on Elyot and Amanda and also serves as a (controversial at the time) vessel for Coward’s take on love, as well as the hypocrisies of the society of the time’s take on it. In places it’s a little gabbling and the dialogue needs to settle more, especially during moments where the dialogue is fairly static. Sometimes the dialogue feels a bit crammed in, even though the break-neck pace may be intended.
But director and cast have captured Coward’s writing, classic song and story intentions and delivered a play of high production values. One quibble though, significant noise bleed from an adjoining room needs to be dealt with.
Overall, this is a very highly recommended show that will sharpen up as the run progresses. It’s venue is part of its charm, and Something Witty have delivered up another gem.