Friday, 26 October 2012
A Chorus of Disapproval at The Harold Pinter Theatre
The ingredients are there; a comedy by Alan Ayckbourn, Trevor Nunn directing and a potentially good cast, but somehow A Chorus of Disapproval at The Harold Pinter Theatre disappoints. Whilst Rob Brydon, as Dafydd ap Llewellyn, the overbearing Welsh director of the Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society, ticks all the boxes, it’s not quite enough to make this revival first class. Perhaps it’s just that this company of professional actors don’t adequately portray a company of amateur ones.
The play revolves around Pendon’s production of The Beggar’s Opera and how life often imitates art. The play opens with the recently widowed Guy Jones, played by Nigel Harman, shining as Macheath on stage but being extremely unpopular off. As the play progresses we begin to understand why. The nice guy, Guy, in his naivety, innocence and inability to say no, has become embroiled in concurrent affairs with two wives in the cast and is mistakenly believed to have insider details of a land deal being conducted by his multinational employer. His rise in the Beggars Opera from the lowly part of Crook-Fingered Jack to the swashbuckling Macheath has less to do with his acting ability and more to do with various cast members taking him into their confidence over the land deal and a series of disasters within the company. Rather than playing Guy as a timid, unlikely sex god who is as equally enthralled by Dafydd’s unhappy wife, Hannah, as he is the sexual predator Fay Hubbard, Nigel Harman portrays him as a shy but believable seducer. Also Ashley Jensen’s Hannah, although on paper a polar opposite to Daisy Beaumont’s Fay, doesn’t come across as such here. Yes, they are different, but the two actresses could very easily swap roles. All of which seems to be a result of odd casting rather than performance.
Luckily Rob Brydon holds the whole show together and hits all the right notes whether his character is bossing the cast, earnestly urging them on, or slipping into a melancholic gloom as he reminisces about his time spent as a “professional”. I also enjoyed the supporting roles of Enid Washbrook played by Teresa Banham, her husband, Ted, an excellent Matthew Cottle and Georgia Brown’s very sparky and aggressive Stage Manager Bridget Baines.
There are also no complaints about Robert Jones’ superb design, which flows seamlessly from village hall, to pub to house interiors and, although I was never helpless with laughter on Monday night, there were some very funny moments. Just not as many as I hoped.