Tag Archives: Michael Praed

“Two Into One” at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Ray Cooney’s 1984 farce Two Into One opened last night at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and it’s an exercise in experience and skill. Cooney directs and stars in his own work, a revival of one of his many successful plays, drawing intelligently on the long tradition of British bawdiness and playing with it to perfection.

Two afternoon affairs in a hotel are complicated since they occur in adjacent rooms. You can hear the doors slamming already can’t you? And they do so with satisfying thuds in Julie Godfrey’s set (I’ve lived in less sturdy flats). The lies surrounding the extra-marital mayhem spiral into the surreal, everyone takes their clothes off and nobody understands one another.

Setting the hotel next to Parliament, packed with politicians and civil servants to make fun of, adds to the laughs. Joking with sexuality as well as sex by introducing a misunderstanding about an affair with a tea boy from the Foreign Office, possibly made the work seem topical once. Now mention of “poofs” seems almost quaint. Unashamedly 1980s, there’s a nostalgic appeal that suits the humour.

In farce it’s the complications and extravagance rather than originality that make you laugh and there’s a comfy side to the genre that this show has in spades. Cooney knows what he’s doing – relax, enjoy yourself – and there’s a remarkable sense of confidence from this experienced cast. Michael Praed plays one of those slimy Tory MPs who characterised the 1980s, Nick Wilton is endearing as his bowler-hatted PPS and Jeffrey Holland plays the hotel manager marvellously. Best of all, the gorgeous Josefina Gabrielle, setting pulses racing in her ‘naughty nightie’, times not just every line, but every move, impeccably – the star of the night in a play full of stars.

Until 26 April 2014


Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Written 20 March 2014 for The London Magazine

“The White Carnation” at the Jermyn Street Theatre

After a sell out run at the Finborough Theatre, The White Carnation finds a new home at the Jermyn Street Theatre and started a short run last night. R.C. Sherriff’s story of a successful stockbroker’s life, which takes a supernatural twist when he returns as a ghost seven years after the war, has waited sixty years for its first revival and this skilled production serves it well.

In the lead role of self-made man John Greenwood, Michael Praed is a touch too urbane, but he deals with the incredible situation stylishly and is full of charisma. Praed delivers the play’s thoughtful moments well, including a burgeoning romance with a librarian; it’s not his fault this aspect of the writing feels like an underdeveloped J.B. Priestly play. Greenwood seems oddly tranquil with his predicament. The reckoning this ghost needs to settle is with his wife, but Sherriff adds atonement – as a kind of fable – too late.

The majority of the play deals humorously with the implications of Greenwood’s spectral status. Firstly, with the town councillor, played by a delightfully outraged Robert Benfield, who hopes to solve housing problems by tearing down the property he now finds haunted (he deals with matters in a far more civilised fashion than I imagine Eric Pickles would). Then with a nice gentleman from the Home Office, managed in appropriate style by Philip York, hoping this inconvenient ectoplasm will emigrate. The local vicar, Benjamin Whitrow, truly stealing his scene, trumps both.

Ridicule of the establishment in The White Carnation is effective, but gentle. Surely it all seemed a touch tame back in 1953 as well? Even Blythe Spirit has more bite. Now the whole affair is gloriously steeped in nostalgia, a fact that director Knight Mantell and his cast seem cleverly aware of. This quality affair is too sweet for sure, but it’s also a treat.

Until 22 February 2014


Photo by Mitzi De Margary

Written 7 February 2014 for The London Magazine