Reviewed by Helen McWilliams
Prior to ‘curtain up’ we were told that we would see eighty minutes of “superbly written, very funny comedy and drama”- that’s exactly what we saw, and then some. With a liberated hamster called ‘Nibbles’ as a recurring topic of conversation and the somewhat unconventional use of a hairdryer thrown in for good measure!
The four actors captured the essence of Yasmina Reza’s simple yet highly observational story of two sets of parents who are attempting to sort out the ‘differences’ that have developed between their eleven year old sons. ‘Differences’ that have resulted in Ferdinand, son of Alan Reille (a Lawyer) and Annette Reille (who works in wealth management) hitting Bruno with a stick and breaking two of his incisors. Bruno being the son of Michel Vallon who works in domestic hardware and has extensive knowledge of toilet systems and Veronique Vallon who is a writer with a passion for Africa and who is preparing a book about Darfur. What starts out as two couples attempting to resolve the ‘fall-out’ eventually turns on its head to expose their own weaknesses, and with hilarious consequences.
The ‘before’ picture is a civilised meeting with four polite individuals talking over coffee, mineral water and clafoutis (which is a cake, not a tart…). Initially, Alain is quick to admit that his son is “a savage” (in between the mobile phone calls that he answers without hesitation) but as discussions become increasingly heated between the group, the insecurities of each individual come to the fore. The ‘after’ picture is pure carnage, especially following the consumption of copious amounts of Michel’s rum!
Miranda Foster is outstanding as the exasperated Annette who not only has her husband’s attachment to his mobile phone to contend with, but also vomits live on stage! James Clyde is a dominating presence as Alain, he commands the stage with the right balance of arrogance and vigour until the untimely demise of his beloved mobile phone. Matthew Kelly plays ‘Michel’ and displays superb comic timing combined with an understated yet extremely impressive performance. He delivers the final line of the play “What do we know…” which poignantly ‘hangs’ in the air. Indeed eighty minutes of comedy drama is summarised with those four words, exceedingly clever writing.
Veronique is played by Tracey Childs; I truly hope that Tracey doesn’t stay away from ‘the boards’ for too long. She has excellent chemistry with Kelly and shows an astounding range of emotions solely through facial expressions. Towards the end of the play, Veronique maliciously empties the contents of Annette’s handbag onto the floor; the childish onslaught that ensues is under-played to amazing effect by Childs.
The set design is just enough for a one act piece, elegant furniture that one would imagine would be to Veronique’s taste and a sizeable screen at the back where a projection of a young boy is the opening image which transforms into a piece of art when the play starts.
It is certainly worthy of five stars and Director, Patrick Sandford is to be commended on a production that I highly recommend anyone to go and see before it closes on 23rd February. You can contact the Nuffield Theatre Box Office on 023 8067 1771 or book tickets online at http://www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk.
First published 19.02.13