Tag Archives: Mark Cameron

“La Cage aux Folles [The Play]” at the Park Theatre

Jean Poiret’s French comedy of manners with a drag twist has never been translated into English before. That’s a surprise given its enormous stage success, along with the two films and hit musical it has spawned. Thankfully, director Jez Bond thought the lack a shame – I agree – and has recruited Simon Callow to produce a script that works a treat.

There are bold decisions behind the production, namely, to make the show gloriously old-fashioned. Time and place – the French Riviera in the early 1970s – are enforced; there’s even a reference to the UK joining the EU. As a result, there are plenty of attitudes that seem archaic. The play makes for an interesting history lesson, if you want one, just in case anyone forgets Drag can be political. And you might find the role of Jacob the servant (which Syrus Lowe tackles well) intriguing. If a lot of the gender politics is worlds away from being “woke”, maybe it’s best to just shrug and feel smug that things are better now.

There’s nothing serious about La Cage aux Folles. It only makes sense to judge it as silly and this is good nonsense. The plot is clear while crazy touches build well. The jokes are good, although in truth it’s the performers rather than the lines that get the laughs. No matter, it’s a fun evening and all the more credit to Bond and his cast.

La Cage aux Folles at the Park Theatre  By Jean Poiret. Photo by Mark Douet
Michael Matus and Paul Hunter

Paul Hunter and Michael Matus play the flamboyant couple, performer and owner of the titular nightclub, with assurance. Their insults and rows are enjoyable and both performers make the most of every moment. Arthur Hughes is good as their son, Laurent, whose future marriage drives the plot: it’s a tricky role that needs to introduce an amount of restraint to proceedings. There’s also strong support from Mark Cameron and Simon Hepworth.

The fun doesn’t increase quite as much as you might hope. As our heroes meet their conservative future family, hosting them for a disastrous dinner party, the second act feels skimpy. Female characters get a raw deal. But Hunter and Matus keep up the energy with some quick transformations adding fun. Remarkably, the play manages to escape the shadow of its famous progeny to show itself as a fine farce in its own right.

Until 21 March 2020


Photos by Mark Douet

“Mathematics of the Heart” at Theatre 503

There’s a lot of common sense in Kefi Chadwick’s play The Mathematics of the Heart, now running at Theatre 503 in Battersea. Paul, a middle-aged maths professor, loves order and seeks to predict what will happen. Chadwick reminds us that the world isn’t like that.

Disrupted by his father’s death and the arrival of an odd bequest – a pre-packed sailing boat – Paul’s relationships with his new student, his errant brother and his long suffering fiancée come adrift. Fortunately, Chadwick and the cast are thoroughly in control.

Bella Heesom is arresting as the young student and Isabel Pollen gives a stunning performance as the fiancée constantly in waiting. Pollen’s character is a cold fish, which makes her well-observed and emotional performance all the more remarkable.

But the heart of the play is a fascinating sibling relationship. Mark Healy is terrific in the lead and Mark Cameron is given a superb role as his brother Chancer. The ego-driven, self-appointed moniker is indicative of this obnoxious but funny, free spirit (there’s a touch of Gloria Swanson about him – the many rock groups he has joined haven’t sacked him, “I always leave first!”). Chancer and Paul are diametrically opposed, artfully described as double pendulums: starting out together but now swinging at different velocities and, frighteningly for Paul, at unpredictable speeds.

Chadwick doesn’t plumb the depths of a connection between maths and art – for academic simply read emotionally dysfunctional. Director Donnacadh O’Briain provides a nice take on the mechanics of theatre, though, with the cast making open demands on the sound and lighting and some very sweet audience participation. It is a shame that O’Briain allows Theatre 503’s intimacy to become a problem, with far too much action occurring in the aisle. Take care to sit at the back and away from the steps as it would be a pity to miss anything about this well crafted, accessible and appealingly modest play.


Until 3 March 2012

Photo by Simon Kane

Written 10 February 2012 for The London Magazine