Harlequinade/All On Her Own*** (Garrick Theatre)

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Theatre

harlequinadeTerence Rattigan’s Harlequinade is an awkward play to stage – too short to represent value for money in a large theatre, too big a cast to be viable on the fringe. A few years ago, the National solved the problem by doubling it up with The Browning Version, a play with a central role that could have suited Kenneth Branagh. Here Branagh spurns that opportunity and tags on Rattigan’s 20-minute monologue All On Her Own as the evening’s opener for the first production in his season at the Garrick. Together, the plays run for 100 minutes without an interval, hardly the best value at West End Prices. Delivering the monologue, Zoë Wanamaker is, predictably, magnificent, dressed in a cocktail dress and clutching a full wine glass, she laments the passing of the husband that she never valued properly during his lifetime. Wanamaker re-appears for the main course as Dame Maud, most senior member of a theatre company run by old style actor/manager Arthur Gosport (Branagh), the type who would play Romeo one night and Lear the next. In modern theatre, the only actor remotely resembling Gosport could be Branagh himself, which is, presumably, the big joke. Rattigan’s humorous observations of the theatre he knew, 70 years or so ago, are often delightful and always amusing. Gosport and his leading lady and wife (or maybe not) Edna Selby (Miranda Raison) live for the theatre and are either oblivious to or disdainful of the inconveniences of normal life. Many of the company also appear in The Winter’s Tale, running in repertory, meaning that there is an impressive array of talent on display, with Branagh and Rob Ashford directing the two productions. Bubbling along nicely, this is not a production to set the world on fire, but it is good lightweight fun.

Performance date: 11 November 2015

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