An Hour And A Half Late – October 2006

Experience: 10/10

By Gerard Sibleyras with Jean Dell, adapted by Mel Smith

Directed by Tamara Harvey

Theatre Royal Bath Productions

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Thursday 19th October 2006

          Adapted by and starring Mel Smith, that’s mouth-watering enough as it is. Also with Belinda Lang, even better. And then add a superb relationship comedy. What more could we have wanted?

Nothing really. There was so much humour in this that I can’t possibly cover it all, so just (some of) the highlights. There was lot of laughter for the wife’s first three entrances. The husband is obviously waiting for her to finish getting ready, and she appears first in one top, then goes back into the bedroom, appearing a few moments later in another top, then goes off to another room, re-enters the bedroom, and comes back out in ….. the first top again! All of this was accompanied by Mel Smith’s wonderful expressions.

The wife wants to talk. She’s feeling old and useless, not helped by her husband’s lack of sympathy. He wants to get to an important celebration dinner being hosted by the man who’s buying him out of his business, thereby making him very rich. He’s also the man the husband’s worked with for twenty years, so it made sense at the time for the husband to tell his colleague about his wife’s unfaithfulness. The unfaithfulness, she now admits, which was a lie, designed to give their flagging marriage a boost. It succeeded, but now the husband is shocked to find out his wife hasn’t slept with another man, and she’s shocked to find out he told his colleague she had! (Apparently it helped the colleague’s sex life in his marriage.)

It’s a lovely comedy that points up the differences in approach and attitude between men and women. At one point she’s disheartened to realise she’s now a granny. His thought is that it’ll be his first time with a granny. When he complains about her obsessive tidiness, she tells him to spill his drink, and, reluctantly, he does. This triggers a mad session of hurling food, objet d’art and pot plants about the place. It’s a very stylish flat they live in, by the way, which makes it even more fun. Afterwards, they consider ways to restore their sex life, and he comes up with the squeaky floorboard idea – they’ll sleep in separate bedrooms, now their last child has flown the nest, and prowl to each other’s rooms, making the floorboards squeak as they go to heighten the anticipation. This is a very funny scene, as they try out all the squeaky floorboards they can find.

Eventually, this all calms down, and the wife is in a much better mood. She disappears off upstairs, and this time she reappears in her little black number, dolled up to the nines, and ready to go to the celebration dinner, an hour and a half late!

I can’t convey all the wonderful humour that was in this production. Much of it is in the performance, of course, but there were many great lines, and the overall construction was great. It’s been well adapted – although the ‘Frenchness’ of the play was still discernible, it worked well in a contemporary London setting. I will definitely see this play again when I get the chance.

© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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