The Country Wife – July 2018

Experience: 7/10

By William Wycherley

Directed by Jonathan Munby

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Friday 6th July 2018

As expected, this had improved with time. The cast were smoother in all aspects of the performance, the dialogue was clearer (or seemed so to us second time around) and one or two of the earlier difficulties had been resolved, at least in part. There was no change to the staging as far as I could see, though of course we spotted more details this time, especially sitting left of centre instead of on the right, as last time. It still didn’t sparkle, and we both felt that the design had to take a lot of the blame for that – the dark, black and white colour scheme simply brought the whole play down.

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The Country Wife – June 2018

Experience: 6/10

By William Wycherley

Directed by Jonathan Munby

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Tuesday 12th June 2018

We found this performance rather patchy: some scenes worked better than others but although the characters were more clearly identified than in some productions we’ve seen, much of the humour fell a bit flat. It’s still in preview, so the performances will undoubtedly come on, and as we’re seeing it again in a few weeks, we expect to get more out of it then.

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Present Laughter – May 2018

Experience: 6/10

By Noel Coward

Directed by Sean Foley

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Friday 11th May 2018

This was a disappointing start to the CFT season. Steve and I have enjoyed Sean Foley’s productions before, particularly A Mad World My Masters, while Rufus Hound’s performance as Sancho Panza in the RSC’s recent Don Quixote was simply superb. Sadly, in combination with the writing talent of Noel Coward, the whole became much less than the sum of its parts. Sean’s reliance on visual gags and physical clowning to get the ‘jokes’ across indicated that he either wasn’t aware of Coward’s wit or didn’t know how to direct it properly, and while Rufus can connect really well with an audience, he seemed to be struggling with some of the dialogue: the brilliant line “I’m so terribly terribly sorry, it’s a wrong number” generated nothing in the way of a response. (It’s usually the funniest line of the show, in our experience.)

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Tartuffe – April 2017

Experience: 8/10

By Andrew Hilton and Dominic Power, after Molière

Company: Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Tuesday 11th April 2017

I was aware that this was an adapted version of Tartuffe, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turned out, this was one of the best versions we’ve seen of this play, second only to the RSC’s 1983 production with Nigel Hawthorne, Alison Steadman, Anthony Sher and David Bradley, amongst others. In this adaptation, the story has been updated to the present day, allowing for topical references, and it all worked brilliantly within a political setting. The characters were also wonderfully updated, and although the comedy took a while to get going – the audience were a bit slow to warm up tonight – there was plenty to laugh at in the later acts.

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The Merry Wives – May 2016

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (slightly adapted)

Directed by Barry Rutter

Company: Northern Broadsides

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud

Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016

We like Northern Broadsides’ no-nonsense approach to Shakespeare’s texts, so we weren’t bothered to find that this version of Merry Wives was no longer set in Windsor, but had been relocated to a country club a few miles outside Harrogate (information courtesy of a post-show chat with the cast). The costumes located the play in the 1920s (with some variations) and the set created a stylish yet simple space for all of the action, with little need to trundle lots of furniture on and off. There was a replica of a 1920s treadmill and three lovely examples of period bicycles, including a tandem, to add to the fun, and the few alterations to the text included the “old woman of Ilkley”, a perfectly acceptable substitution. Apart from that, the dialogue was as expected, and the performance fairly zinged along, with some lovely business to keep us entertained. A shame there were so few of us to enjoy the fun – the auditorium was about a third full – but hopefully they will get better attendances later in the week.

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All’s Well That Ends Well – April 2016

Experience: 10/10

By William Shakespeare, adapted by Dominic Power

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Company: STF and TFT

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Wednesday 13th April 2016

Tonight we sat directly opposite our previous seats, which not only gave us a great view of tonight’s performance, but also a completely different perspective. The cast had made good use of the extra practice, and all the performances had developed nicely; although there were still a few fluffs, nothing detracted from the marvellous energy and pace with which they drove this story along, and there were some lovely extra details here and there. Sadly, the house was not full, so clearly word has not yet got out about how wonderful this production is. I’m tempted to ask my maestro of the scheduling (aka Steve) to see if we can squeeze in another viewing during the tour, but one look at my diary – we have a LOT coming up – suggests that won’t be possible. Catch it if you can.

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All’s Well That Ends Well – March 2016

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (with a little help from Dominic Power)

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Company: Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory (STF) and Tobacco Factory Theatres (TFT)

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Thursday 31st March 2016

This production was a revelation: we were completely enthralled by this adapted version of one of Will’s ‘troublesome’ plays. As it was the first night, the cast were a little tense to begin with, but after some strong laughs in the first half, they relaxed into it, and the rest of the performance was noticeably more confident. There’s still some improvement in it even so; a few lines were fluffed tonight, but that’s to be expected, and one or two of the scene changes are likely to speed up with practice, but nothing detracted from this superb interpretation of this less-performed play.

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