Thursday, 5 December 2013

Changing Rooms - Serendipity Productions @ The Drayton Arms Theatre

Serendipity's past productions include the likes of Strindberg's Playing With Fire and Schnitzler's Fräulein Else, two particularly heavy European dramas.  Changing Rooms, from French playwright Marc Camoletti, marks a comedic change of pace for the company whilst retaining director Anna Ostergren's penchant for European theatre.

Set in a sparse yet chic apartment, Changing Rooms depicts the silliness of high society French living in the 1950s.  A typical farce, government worker Bernard is desperate to spend the weekend with his mistress Brigitte, whilst his wife Jacqueline wishes to spend time with her toy boy Robert.  Both manipulate their situation, believing they have the apartment to themselves - all under the ever-watchful eye of droll housekeeper Nana.  As ever, these things don't quite go to plan.

Alongside the farcical humour, the acting is suitably cartoonish - the antithesis of naturalism.  In some instances this style works, particularly with Milan Alexander's naive, nervous yet excitable Robert and Anna Lukis who plays a youthful Brigitte demanding a wedding ring whilst coquettishly sucking a lollipop.  Jill Stanford's droll, money-grabbing and exasperated Nana also provides plenty of laughs at the centre of the narrative.

For the most part, though, the cast have a tendency to overact and play to the audience, particularly Kevin Marchant's shifty, sleazy Bernard and Maria de Lima's vampy cougar Jacqueline.  They aren't helped by a translated script that's a little stilted and old fashioned, with some humour perhaps lost in translation.  It also overstates the obvious, leading to a sometimes laboured pace that thankfully picks up in the second act.  Despite some great use of French music (Je t'aime moi non plus and Non, je ne regrette rien), the end result feels more like a soap opera than a classic comedy.

The narrative is a straightforward and predictable farce, with characters that never stretch beyond the limits of their archetypal roles used to highlight the fickleness of human relationships and how easily people can be manipulated.  It might not present anything novel, but this production is solid fun.


Watch: Changing Rooms is performed at the Drayton Arms Theatre until December 21st.

Copyright Michael Morgan